Florida House Panel OKs Bill to Cut Abortion Funds in Obamacare

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 1, 2011   |   12:54PM   |   Tallahassee, FL

A Florida state House committee is following the lead of the state Senate, where a committee has also approved legislation that would remove abortion funding from the Obamacare health care law.

The Florida House Insurance and Banking Committee on Wednesday passed a bill that prohibits the state exchanges created under Obamacare from paying for elective abortions unless in cases of rape or incest or the woman’s life is in danger — following federal law. The bill would have Florida join a list of other states to use the provision in Obamacare to opt out of abortion funding, allowed by numerous loopholes and a lack of an abortion funding ban in the legislation.

House Bill 97, sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, is now headed to the House Health and Human Services Committee, which must sign off on the measure before it goes to the full state House for a debate and vote.

Two weeks ago, the Senate Health Regulation Committee passed SB 1414 that would make 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.

Stephanie Kunkel of Planned Parenthood opposed the bill during testimony.

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.

The Senate committee also passed a bill — 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.