By Gary Joseph Wilson | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — Women in Pennsylvania will have the right to choose insurance through the state health exchange, but it won’t extend to abortion.
The state Senate on Wednesday voted 31-19 to approve House Bill 818, which prohibits insurance policies offered through Pennsylvania’s upcoming health-care insurance exchanges from offering abortion coverage. The bill, which already passed in the House, goes to Gov. Tom Corbett.
Christine Cronkright, a spokeswoman for Corbett, said the governor will sign the bill.
In an email, Cronkright said the bill would not “place any greater restrictions” on access-to-care for abortion. Abortions will still be allowed in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the mother is at risk.
However, the ban also extends to plans sold by private insurers issued without federal subsidy.
The bill was written in response to the emergence of state health exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act.
Under Obamacare, states may create their own exchanges or opt for a federal government-run exchange.
Corbett has chosen not to establish a state-run exchange.
Obamacare allows states to bar their health insurance exchanges from offering abortion coverage by enacting a state law prohibition. HB 818 is designed to follow this Obamacare option and, thus, enact the ban on offering abortion coverage.
Senate Democrats gave an impassioned plea against the bill, arguing that it was an unnecessary attack on a hypothetical issue.
Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, called the bill an attack on women’s health that “panders to single-issue voters” for political gain. The bill, she said, would impede the free market.
Sen. Michael Stack, D-Philadelphia, also voted against the bill, calling it “redundant,” as other laws already address abortion and abortion funding.
Pennsylvania Republicans, such as bill sponsor state Rep. Donna Oberlander, R-Clarion, have framed the bill not as a limit on the act of abortion but as a preventive measure ensuring state and federal tax dollars are not used for abortion.
The House passed the bill in April in a 144-53 vote.
Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have issued fiscal notes that appear contrary to Oberlander’s claims. According to the notes, the bill will have no fiscal impact on commonwealth money.
Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, contended taxpayer money was already being used to establish the health-care exchanges, so the bill “ensures that Pennsylvania’s current law is applied consistently” regarding taxpayer funding of abortion.