HARRISBURG - In a continuing trend toward wresting control of women's healthcare away from patients and doctors, the Pennsylvania Senate today passed legislation to ban insurance coverage of abortion care in policies sold in the exchange created by the federal healthcare reform law. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania was among the opponents of the bill and urged Governor Corbett to veto the legislation when it reaches his desk.
"For two years, the General Assembly has worked mightily to micromanage women's healthcare from the state capitol," said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "This is only the latest maneuver in a disturbing trend."
On Tuesday, the Senate rejected the opportunity to amend the bill, House Bill 818, to provide greater flexibility for patients who participate in the insurance exchange. Amendments to allow abortion coverage when a patient pays with private funds and to allow an exception for coverage when an abortion is necessary to avert a medical emergency both failed.
The bill currently contains only narrow exceptions for rape, incest, and imminent death of the woman.
"Contrary to the false claims of its supporters, this legislation goes much further than current law," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "Never before has the state government prohibited a private insurer from providing coverage of abortion to a private customer who pays for that coverage with private money.
"This is yet another way in which the General Assembly is attempting to cut off women's access to a legal medical procedure."
The medical emergency amendment would have allowed insurance coverage of abortion when the termination of a pregnancy is necessary for a woman to avoid the loss of a major bodily function, such as organ failure.
Hoover noted that these abortions are often expensive and occur in planned pregnancies.
"It is simply shocking that the Senate is so cavalier about women's health," Hoover said.
HB 818 now heads to Governor Corbett's desk for his signature or veto.