Pa. Senate panel backs abortion limits in insurance exchanges

    Many thought the issue was settled last year during the federal health overhaul debate, but a Pennsylvania proposal makes it clear that some are still worried that the health law could expand federal funding of abortion.

    Advocates and opponents of abortion rights have said that the Affordable Care Act provides a workable, if not easy, solution to keep the health law from either restricting or expanding abortion access. But Republican Sen. Donald White says he’s not so sure that the health law holds the line.

    “This is a concern that we have, this is strictly a precautionary move on my part,” he said.

    White’s bill limits abortion coverage offered by private plans sold on the federally subsidized health insurance exchanges.

    “All this does is ensure that when this exchange comes to our state, that this will be a foundation point of where we stand as a state. All we want to do is duplicate the current status of what is on the books now in the state of Pennsylvania,” said White, chair of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. The committee voted 12 to 2 Tuesday to support White’s bill. The proposal now goes to the full Senate for debate.

    Rebecca Foley, of the Philadelphia funding and advocacy group Women’s Way, said the “bill goes far beyond the status quo of abortion coverage currently on the books.”

    Foley said different from long-time federal law, the exceptions in White’s bill are “extremely narrow.” She said White’s bill would create new barriers for women who buy their health coverage through the state exchanges set to begin in 2014.

    “In the cases of rape and incest women would have to report the incident to the police and also the assailant’s identity,” Foley said.

    She said the federal funding exceptions in the Pennsylvania bill would not cover abortion for a pregnancy that causes paralysis, organ failure or infertility.

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