The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

State News

April 15, 2013

Bill to limit abortion coverage advances

HARRISBURG — Republicans in the Pennsylvania House on Monday pushed out of committee a bill that would prevent most coverage for abortions under the health exchange in Pennsylvania being set up as part of the federal health care overhaul.

The Health Committee voted 15-9 in favor of the proposal that provides exceptions only for victims of rape and incest or when the mother’s life is in peril. One Democrat voted for it.

A Democratic-sponsored amendment that would have added an exception for the mother’s health was defeated along party lines.

Committee chairman Matt Baker, R-Bradford, said the health exception would represent a substantial change from the state’s longstanding public policy that does not permit public funding of abortions under most circumstances.

He said the health exception amendment was too vague, as doctors’ “good faith clinical judgment” can be a subjective matter.

“I do not believe health care should include killing babies,” Baker said, drawing applause from some of his fellow GOP lawmakers. He argued the exchange will be supported with public money.

Supporters of the bill said people can purchase insurance riders to provide elective abortion coverage, but Democrats on the committee said those riders do not appear to exist in the current insurance market.

“We have no knowledge that any insurance provider ... will create such a rider,” said Rep. Pam DeLissio, D-Philadelphia.

Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery, who sponsored the defeated amendment, said that without it, physicians may find themselves waiting to recommend an abortion while a woman’s health deteriorates to the point of risking her life.

“If the mother’s health suffers, the fetus may not survive,” Daley said.

Last week, a similar bill got a positive vote in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. Legislation on the same topic passed both chambers during the last two-year legislative session but died when the House and Senate were unable to resolve differences.

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