SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is taking his abortion-rights advocacy nationwide, introducing on Wednesday a political organization to fund similar efforts outside Illinois, a state that legalized abortion by statute even before the Supreme Court invalidated the right to undergo the procedure.
Think Big America has already funded support for constitutional amendments favoring abortion access in Ohio, Arizona and Nevada. The effort also enhances the profile of the Democratic governor and multibillionaire equity investor and philanthropist. Pritzker has said he’s focused on serving as a Midwest governor, but speculation is rampant that he harbors presidential ambitions.
Fourteen states now ban abortion and debate elsewhere rages since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision to upend the 50-year-old Roe v. Wade opinion that legalized abortion.
“My commitment to protecting and expanding reproductive rights has been lifelong,” Pritzker, who has often recalled attending abortion-rights rallies with his mother as a child, said in a prepared statement. “Think Big America is dedicated to ensuring the fundamental right of reproductive choice for individuals everywhere — regardless of their state of residence, religion, race, or socioeconomic status.”
Think Big America is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, a so-called dark money organization, which is not required by federal law to disclose its donors. But the group’s spokesperson, Natalie Edelstein, said Pritzker is the lone donor. No one else has been solicited for a contribution, although that’s an option for the future. Edelstein would add only that Pritzker’s outlay has been “substantial” and sufficient to cover initial contributions to the other states’ campaigns.
A three-person board directing operations for Think Big America includes Desiree Rogers, former White House social secretary under President Barack Obama; Chicago state Rep. Margaret Croke; and Chicago Alderwoman Michelle Harris.
Despite a long progressive agenda, there are few issues on which Pritzker has been more vocal than abortion access.
After dispatching his Republican opponent, a virulent abortion opponent, to win a second term last fall, he signed legislation from activist Democrats who control the General Assembly to further strengthen abortion protections. The safeguards include patients from other states streaming to Illinois to have abortions which are prohibited or restricted in their home states.
But the activism also provides additional exposure for Pritzker, who has been conspicuous on the national scene and unabashed in his criticism of what he calls Donald Trump-let GOP “zealots” who he says favor “culture wars” over “issues that matter.” From appearances on Sunday news programs to his monetary support for Democrats and their causes across the country, Pritzker has been forced to downplay any interest in a broader role for himself.
He noted, however, that his nascent campaign will “combat right-wing extremism on all fronts,” not just abortion.
“I’ve seen the governor’s commitment to expanding human, civil, and reproductive rights up close,” Rogers said in a statement. “There has never been a more critical time for everyone to get off the sidelines and into the fight, and I am ready to work … to ensure the rights and freedoms we enjoy in Illinois can be a reality for everyone.”