Florida Passes Bill to Opt Out of Obamacare Abortion Funding

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 15, 2011   |   12:21PM   |   Tallahassee, FL

A Florida committee passed two pieces of legislation that would allow the state to opt out of the abortion funding allowed under the Obamacare health care reform law.

On Monday, the Senate Health Regulation Committee passed SB 1414 that would made it so health insurance plans under the state exchange would not be able to fund abortions with taxpayer dollars in nearly all cases. Sen. Stephen R. Wise, a Jacksonville Republican, sponsored the bill and it would block policies that include abortion if public money is involved as either a subsidy for the person who is shopping for coverage or a business tax credit.

The Obamacare legislation requires state health insurance exchanges created under the legislation to cover abortions, but the law allows states to opt out of requiring abortion coverage. The ban extends to the state exchanges the Obamacare legislation would set up because the funding for abortions would come at taxpayer expense through the exchanges, which would be funded with federal subsidies.

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 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.

But Stephanie Kunkel of Planned Parenthood opposed the bill during testimony.

A similar bill in the House is scheduled for a committee vote on Wednesday.

The second measure the committee approved is a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that bans any state taxpayer funding of abortion unless necessary to save the life of the mother and it is a bill sponsored by Rep. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican. The amendment would apply to the health care plans of all public employees in Florida.

Flores explained, according to the Flager Live web site, “If you believe it’s a life, you need to protect it.”

Some senators voted for Joint Resolution 1538 but only as long as rape and incest exceptions were added on the Senate floor.

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.

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.

Other states such as South Carolina are working on similar legislation.