Pa. panel backs plan restricting abortion coverage

    A Pennsylvania Senate committee has passed a proposal to restrict abortion coverage in health insurance plans provided through the state’s federally mandated exchange.Last session, similar measures passed the House and Senate independently, but neither one made it through the entire legislative gantlet.

    With the 2014 operational date for health-care exchanges right around the corner, Senate GOP spokesman Erik Arneson says this measure may go to the finish line.

    “I think that it is more likely that one version of this bill or another will make it to the governor’s desk this year,” Arneson said.

    The proposal would prohibit health insurance plans offered through the state exchange from covering abortions, except those required to prevent the death of the mother or to end pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

    The American Civil Liberties Union is decrying the measure as extreme.

    “Follow the supporters’ logic to the ultimate conclusion, we might conclude that public money pays for roads and women travel on roads to get to abortion clinics so perhaps we should just ban abortion in situations where someone uses public transportation or infrastructure to get to an abortion clinic,” said Andy Hoover, an ACLU lobbyist.

    Exchanges are prohibited from using federal funds to pay for abortion services — they must charge separate premiums for abortion coverage.

    But states are permitted to limit abortion coverage offered through the exchanges. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 17 others have passed laws to do so.

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