Pennsylvania Cmte Passes Obamacare Abortion Funding Opt-Out

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 25, 2011   |   5:02PM   |   Harrisburg, PA

Legislators in the state that was one of the first to attempt to pay for abortions with taxpayer funds under the Obamacare health care reform law is moving ahead with a bill to opt out of any abortion funding under it.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee passed a measure on Tuesday 12-2 to opt out of allowing any abortion funding under the state exchanges the Obamacare law sets up by 2014.

Under the new health care law, states will be in charge of their own health care exchanges that are available for individuals and small businesses. The bill will keep any insurance plans on the Pennsylvania exchange from offering abortion coverage. The exchange doesn’t go into effect until 2014 and states are filing lawsuits seeking to stop the pro-abortion health care bill in its other pro-abortion provisions entirety, but states are moving now to exercise their right to opt out of some of the abortion funding.

Denise Burke, an attorney with Americans United for Life, has explained the opt out clause contained in the Obamacare bill, which otherwise fails to contain sufficient limits on abortion funding.

“Specifically, the new law prohibits health insurers participating in the state-run health insurance exchange (scheduled to go into effect in 2014) from offering plans or policies that cover abortions except in rare cases in which the mother’s life is in danger,” she said.

She said the day after Congress passed the health care reform legislation, AUL made its “Federal Abortion-Mandate Opt-Out Act” available to lawmakers in all 50 states.

“We continue to work with dozens of states that are considering opt-out legislation either this year or when their legislative sessions reconvene in 2011,” she said.

Pennsylvania became the first state to attempt to fund abortions under Obamacare last July when it announced the Obama Administration announced it would give Pennsylvania $160 million to set up a new “high-risk” insurance program but Pennsylvania officials  quietly approved a plan submitted by an appointee of pro-abortion then-Governor Edward Rendell under which the new program will cover any abortion that is legal in Pennsylvania.

The high-risk pool program is one of the new programs created by the sweeping health care legislation, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Obama signed into law on March 23. The law authorizes $5 billion in federal funds for the program, which will cover as many as 400,000 people when it is implemented nationwide.

“The Obama Administration will give Pennsylvania $160 million in federal tax funds, which we’ve discovered will pay for insurance plans that cover any legal abortion,” Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, told at the time.

New Mexico and Maryland also tried to fund abortions through the program until National Right to Life blew the whistle and the Obama administration was forced to back down.

When Congress passed the government-run health care bill, it did so without any limits on abortion funding and language mandating taxpayer financing of abortion in certain circumstances.

Obama eventually issued a controversial executive order supposedly taking the abortion funding issue off the table.

However, virtually every pro-life group said it would not mitigate the abortion funding because it doesn’t have the effect of law, could be reversed in the future, and because it didn’t tackle much of the abortion funding in the bill. The Obama administration could also ignore the order and not put it in place when the health care law goes into effect.

Arizona, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, and Louisiana have passed similar bills that have already been signed into law by governors in those states and several other states are expected to consider legislation in their upcoming legislative sessions. Governors in Oklahoma and Florida vetoed similar legislation.