Abortion-access bill heads to Governor

Posted by Lauren Daley on Thu, Jun 6, 2013 at 10:50 AM

A bill that would preclude new state-run health-insurance exchanges from covering abortions passed the state Senate yesterday and now heads to Gov. Tom Corbett.

House Bill 818 passed the state Senate on a 31-19 vote. (House votes can be found here.)

The House bill is identical to Senate Bill 3, introduced by State Senator Don White (R-Indiana).

The bill now heads to Gov. Corbett's office. White's chief of staff, Joe Pittman, says Corbett says he intends to sign it.

"Obamacare gave states the authority to make the ultimate decision on whether elective abortions would be covered in the exchange," Senator White said in a press release. "House Bill 818 simply ensures that Pennsylvania’s current law is applied consistently when it comes to taxpayer-subsidized health care insurance. The Abortion Control Act -- signed into law decades ago by Governor Casey -- makes it crystal clear that taxpayer dollars will not be used to pay for elective abortions."

As we've noted before, reproductive-choice advocates say such restrictions are just the latest development in Pennsylvania's increasingly anti-choice climate.

Advocates were hoping that the Senate would at least approve an amendment that would have preserved abortion coverage for cases in which a pregnancy threatens a women's health. But that amendment was narrowly shot down, meaning that abortion coverage will only be provided in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother. Another amendment -- which would have allowed individuals to privately purchase a policy covering abortion on the insurance exchange provided that the policyholder covers any related administrative fees -- was also narrowly defeated.

Advocates decried the passage of the bill without the amendments, and say they are worried about how the policy affects self-employed and small businesses who will access insurance on the exchange, which will be set up in 2014.

"Imagine a woman who owns her own business, who chooses to buy her insurance on the Exchange, who pays her premiums every month and during a much anticipated and desired pregnancy develops cancer," said Sari Stevens, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates, in a statement. "The Pennsylvania legislature has decided to tell her that she’s out of luck and has to foot the bill herself. That is beyond cruel. The voters are fed up with the divisive social agenda of this legislature, and with elections around the corner again, it's a surprisingly risky and heartless move."

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