Senate clears bill banning abortion coverage under exchange

The state Senate today sent legislation to Gov. Corbett that would prohibit all coverage of abortions under the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchange.

By a 31-19 vote, the Senate approved a bill that would deny women the ability to purchase abortion coverage through the new privately-run insurance exchanges aimed at low-income individuals and families.

Corbett's spokeswoman, Kirsten Page, said the governor is "inclined" to sign the bill, which would make Pennsylvania the 21st state to opt out of exchange-based abortion coverage.

Sen. Don White (R., Armstrong) defended the measure, saying the Affordable Care Act gives states the option to decide whether abrtion is covered in health care exchange and, he added, this bill would ensure "the current laws applied consistently.

But opponents said the measure goes beyond the state's Abortion Control preventing women from purchasing abortion coverage under private health insurance and decried it as yet another example of legislative intrusion into women's healthcare.

An attempt last year to pass a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound was dropped after Corbett, asked about whether the requirement was too intrusive, said a patient could "just close your eyes."

Without access to insurance coverage, women enrolled in the exchange would have to pay full price for a routine abortion, which could run as high as $450, or reach into the thousands of dollars if there are complications, according to Planned Parenthood.

Sen. Lisa Boscola (D., Lehigh) said the bill represents a continuation of the legislature's "attack on women's health" that began two years ago.

Boscola - one of eight women in the 50-member Senate - blamed the bill's passage on the dearth of women in the legislature and urged any women interested in running for office to call her.

Two female GOP Senators - Pat Vance of Cumberland County and Lisa Baker of Lehigh County - joined Democrats in voting against the bill.

Philadelphia Democrat Michael Stack called the bill unnecesary, redundant and "a mistake."

The Senate rejected two amendments yesterday that would have made the bill more palatable to abortion rights supporters, including one that would have allowed an exception for coverage when an abortion was necessary to avert a medical emergency.

The bill currently contains only narrow exceptions for rape, incest, and imminent death of the woman.

“Contrary to the false claims of its supporters, this legislation goes much further than current law,” said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, which opposed the bill.“Never before has the state government prohibited a private insurer from providing coverage of abortion to a private customer who pays for that coverage with private money.

The bill, HB 818, is the latest in a series of abortion-related measures that have advanced in the legislature since Corbett took office in January 2011 and shortly after, federal charges were filed against Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. He was recently convicted of murder in the killing of babies born alive in his clinic.

Within minutes of the vote, press releases were issued by groups on both sides of the issue. The Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation hailed its passage and called it a "taxpayer protection bill."

The Senate Democratic Campaign Committee issued a statement that blamed the defeat of the amendments on three GOP Senators from the southeast: Stewart Greenleaf of Montgomery County, Todd Erikson of Delaware County, Robert Tomlinson of Bucks County, along with Pat Browne of Lehigh, who were no votes.






Click here for's politics page.