Arkansas House Cmte Kills Bill Removing Obamacare Abortion Funding

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 3, 2011   |   1:39PM   |   Little Rock, AR

A state House committee in Arkansas has killed legislation that would have removed the abortion funding form the state health insurance exchange Arkansas would create under the Obamacare health care reform law.

The state Senate already approved the legislation, on a 27-8 vote Thursday, sponsored by Sen. Cecile Bledsoe of Rogers.

But the House Public Health Welfare and Labor Committee tabled the bill after Rep. Jeff Wardlaw, a Democrat, attached an amendment to the bill on an 11-8 vote that would allow abortion funding in cases of rape and incest. Because state law prohibits state taxpayer funding of abortions in those cases, allowing it only to save the life of the mother, the bill temporarily became unconstitutional and lawmakers used that as an excuse to defeat the measure.

According to the Arkansas News, Rep. Barry Hyde, a North Little Rock Democrat, accused Wardlaw of trying to kill the bill.

The News indicated Bledsoe did not know what the next step would be for the measure.

“To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement,” she said.

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. States like Arkansas have approved bills to keep any insurance plans in their state exchanges 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 also moving now to exercise their right to opt out of some of the abortion funding.

“This is about tax dollars and Arkansans have said overwhelmingly we don’t want to spend tax dollars on abortions,” Bledsoe told the Senate during the debate there on the measure.

Sen. Joyce Elliott, a Democrat from Little Rock, led the opposition and said it was too harsh on women, but Bledsoe says nothing stops women from getting abortions on their own dime.

“They just can’t get taxpayer funds,” she said.

Sen. Jason Rapert, a Conway Republican, agreed and said: “I do not think that my taxpayer dollars, my constituents’ taxpayer dollars or your constituents’ taxpayer dollars should be utilized in a forced manner for something that we don’t agree with in this state. We talk about, think about the lives of those we are here to protect and serve … I think we’re here to protect and serve the interests of our constituents and not force their dollar to be utilized for something they don’t agree with.”

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.

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.