Nebraska OKs Bill to Remove Abortion Funding From Obamacare

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 2, 2011   |   4:28PM   |   Lincoln, NE

Nebraska is on its way to becoming the next state to use the option given to states under the Obamacare health care reform law to opt out of paying for any abortions under the state exchanges the bills create.

LB 22, sponsored by Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha received a 36-to-9 vote in favor and still faces two more rounds of voting before it can head to the governor. The measure would add Nebraska to a list of five other states that will prohibit insurance companies from using taxpayer funds under the exchanges to pay for abortions.

Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm attempted to add an amendment to the bill that would have required health insurance companies to offer riders providing coverage for abortions, but that was rejected on a 35-4 vote. Haar said his office could not find any insurance companies in Nebraska that offered such riders.

Julie Schmit-Albin of Nebraska Right to Life applauded the vote in comments to “The Nebraska Legislature took the first step forward today to ensure that taxpayers aren’t funding abortion due to federal changes with health care legislation.  Nebraska is a pro-life state and we have a precedence of preferring childbirth over abortion. LB 22 reinforces that state policy.”

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 Nebraska can approve  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.

Most recently, the Arkansas Senate voted to approve a similar bill, but the state House wound up defeating the measure. In January, legislators in the Pennsylvania Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted for an abortion funding opt-out bill.

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.

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.

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.