Once ‘pro-life,’ Severino says he wouldn’t vote to ban abortion federally

Election 2024
Democratic U.S. Brad Schneider, left, and Republican challenger Joe Severino.

Though having declared himself “pro-life” in the past, the Republican candidate trying to unseat a longtime Democratic congressman says he wouldn’t vote to ban abortion.

“I believe that there’s instances where women, you know, unfortunately have to make that (decision) and encounter that,” said Joe Severino of Lake Forest, who is running against four-term U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Highland Park in the 10th District, which includes McHenry County. “I absolutely believe that nobody should be telling a woman what to do with her body. That’s the bottom line.”

He added that he is opposed to “late-term” abortion, calling the practice “outrageous.”

Severino, a first-time candidate, sought to clarify his position on abortion, bringing up the topic himself during the end of a recent interview with representatives of the Daily Herald Editorial Board.

In response to campaign literature sent by Schneider’s campaign that has tried to paint Severino as extreme on the issue, Severino said he’s had a consistent view “from the beginning.”

But his campaign website no longer contains references to abortion as it did as early as August 2020, when it said: “Joe is Pro-life and a believer in the sanctity of life in all stages. Joe would sign the born alive bill that would compel health care workers to render health care to any baby that survives an abortion,” according to the Internet Archive digital library.

When news of the leaked Supreme Court draft broke in May, Severino posted on Facebook that the landmark Roe v. Wade case “should never have been settled by the courts.”

And in his recent Daily Herald candidate questionnaire, Severino embraced the value of states’ rights.

“The whole point the Supreme Court made was that this is a state issue. Congress should keep out of it,” he wrote. “The Constitution defines what is a federal issue versus what is a state issue. That’s why we have local police departments and not national police departments. The people of each state through their elective representatives can make decisions for themselves particularly on issues that are not governed by the Constitution.”

Schneider, who has been endorsed by a bevy of abortion rights groups including the National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, was among those in the House of Representatives to vote to codify abortion rights before and after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision that reversed Roe. While the legislation cleared the House, it hasn’t passed the Senate.

“The choice to have an abortion is a private decision that belongs in discussions between a woman, her family and her physician,” Schneider said during a separate interview with the newspaper’s editorial board.

“It’s not just about a woman who has an unexpected pregnancy and decides it’s not the right time,” he continued. “It’s the woman who was on a business trip from Chicago to Texas from Indiana, and something catastrophic happened with her pregnancy. She and her partner want the baby more than anything else. But life happens and sometimes things don’t work out. You need to protect the life of the mother. And sometimes it’s the worst news a family can hear -- that there’s a problem with a fetus and it’s not viable or it has stopped breathing. The heart has stopped beating. ... Everyone’s health is distinct, male or female.”

The newly redrawn 10th District encompasses parts of Cook, Lake and McHenry counties, starting in Wilmette and going up to the Wisconsin state line, then extending as far west as Hebron.