6th District candidates debate abortion

6th Congressional candidates battle over abortion at first televised debate

The battle storyline for the 6th Congressional District seat is not just a matter of red versus blue.

When it comes to the campaigns of U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam and his businessman opponent Sean Casten, it’s a little more controversial than that.

It’s a narrative of pro-abortion rights versus anti-abortion.

Roskam, a Wheaton Republican, and Casten, a Downers Grove Democrat, sparred over the topic Thursday night at the Chicago Union League Club in the first televised debate of the race.

“I’m pro-life. I believe that life in the womb is worthy of protection,” Roskam said. “I find it shocking that Sean will impose no limitation whatsoever.”

To Casten, the abortion issue comes down to trusting the people with their own decisions.

“This is an individual rights issue,” Casten said.

Democrats, such as Casten, have argued all women should have the same access to abortion services. Republicans, such as Roskam, contend taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fund a morally objectionable procedure, particularly when Illinois has major financial problems.

Roskam attacked Casten for talks that he would repeal the 1977 Hyde Amendment, named for Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde. The legislation restricted public funding for abortions to women who are victims of rape or incest, or in cases where pregnancy endangers a mother’s life.

More than two dozen states follow the Hyde Amendment, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group supporting abortion rights.

But a state can use the state portion of Medicaid state-federal program funding for women seeking abortions for other reasons. 

The annual taxpayer cost of abortions under the measure would be $1.8 million, according to Department of Healthcare and Family Services estimates.

“The choice about what is the right decision for a woman is between her and her doctor,” Casten said. “It’s not up to Peter or anybody else in Washington, including myself.”

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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