House panel approves bill to restrict abortions under insurance exchange

A bill to restrict abortion coverage under the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchange won passage in a House committee today.

In a 15-9 vote, largely along party lines, the Health Committee approved a proposal that provides exceptions only for victims of rape and incest or when the mother's life is threatened.

A single Democrat, Rep. Gerald Mullery of Luzerne County, voted for it.

Democrat Mary Jo Daley of Montgomery County offered an unsuccessful amendment that would have added an exception for the mother's health.

Committee chairman Matt Baker (R., Tioga) said the health exception would represent a substantial change from the state’s longstanding public policy that does notpermit public funding of abortions under most circumstance

"I do not believe health care should include killing babies," said Baker, the committee's chairman, according to an Associated Press report.

Daley said without her amendment physicians may find themselves waiting to recommend an abortion while a woman's health deteriorates to the point of risking her life.

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Flo Fabrizio of Erie County, said the bill restricts private individuals from spending their own money for a legal procedure.

"I find it incredulous that we're debating something that is designed to protect the health of women," Fabrizio said.

Opponents said the bill limits private insurers from providing abortions to women enrolled in the health care exchanges – and paying a special fee for coverage - under the Affordable Care Act.

Federal law requires individuals to provide an entirely separate payment for insurance coverage of abortion, said Sari Stevens, executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates.

If HB 818 becomes law, no private insurance plan contracting with the new Health Care Exchange set up by the Affordable Care Act will have the option of offering abortion coverage outside of cases of rape and incest that have been personally reported or the impending death of the woman.

“Even more shocking is that this bill is so ideological and blind-sighted as to refuse to give women with serious health problems like cancer any consideration,” said Stevens.

Stevens described the bill as an assault on a women’s right to full health care, even as 79 percent of Pennsylania voters support insurance coverage of abortion to protect a women’s health.

“During the 2012 elections, voters made it clear they were fed up with the attacks on reproductive health issues,” Stevens.“Yet here we are again with restrictions to safe, legal abortion and limiting women’s health care options back on the agenda as a top priority for the Pennsylvania legislature

The bill now moves to the full House for a floor vote.

Last week, a similar bill was approved by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.





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