Pa. House passes abortion limits under health law
HARRISBURG — A bill to prevent coverage for most abortions under the insurance marketplace being set up as part of the federal health care overhaul was approved on Tuesday by the state House and is on its way to the state Senate.
The House voted 144-53 in favor of the proposal that would provide exceptions only for rape, incest or when the mother's life is in danger.
During hours of heated debate, Democratic opponents portrayed the measure as a new restriction on reproductive rights and a needless risk to women's health.
Rep. Erin Molchany, D-Mt. Washington, said the end result would be to form two health care classes, making it more difficult for low- and middle-income women to get abortions.
“This House should be ashamed of itself for sacrificing Pennsylvania women in the interests of politics,” Molchany said.
Republicans described the bill as a continuation of the state's longstanding policy against taxpayer-funded abortions.
“No tax dollars are used for elective abortions in Pennsylvania,” said Rep. Matt Baker, R-Bradford. “We want to keep it that way.”
The bill would not allow people, even using their own money, to buy health coverage that includes abortion services through the Affordable Care Act's marketplace, known as an exchange. They could attempt to obtain coverage outside the exchange on their own, but critics said such policies are not available and there is no reason to think they will be.
“We've been shown no proof that there are carriers out there that are willing to underwrite those policies,” said Rep. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks. “We've heard nothing about what the price would be.”
The ongoing, high-profile trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortion provider, was brought up by Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren. She argued that some people might agree with the legality of abortion without wanting to help pay for a health care exchange that facilitates the procedure, and those with strong anti-abortion positions would be even more opposed.
“The track record for abortions in our nation right now is around 54 million,” Rapp said. “To me, that's the real war on women.”
Rep. Tim Krieger, R-Delmont, said supporters of the bill were engaged in an “ideological struggle.”
“Someone said that somehow, all the sudden, conservatives are for big government and this is a big government idea,” Krieger said. “I would say to you, if government doesn't have a role in protecting innocent life, then what is government's role?”
The bill “flies in the face” of Republicans' stated free-market values, said Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia.
“This legislation is about advancing an ideology of oppression and suppression,” Sims said. “Each of us put our hands on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. We did not place our hands on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.”
The vote was not close, as 36 Democrats crossed party lines in support of the measure, but only two Republicans were against it. Many of the Democratic “yes” votes came from members who represent more rural districts, particularly in Western Pennsylvania.
Similar legislation was recently approved by a state Senate committee. Both chambers approved competing versions in the last two-year legislative session, but the bills died when a compromise was not reached.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Former Marines who served with alleged killer said couple fought constantly
- Poor sales sink multi-state Monopoly Millionaires’ Club lottery
- Pennsylvania Marine who killed family takes own life
- In poll, many Pennsylvanians predict taxes will rise under Wolf
- DA expects charges soon in $1.2M Shenango Township thefts
- Most Penn State trustees boycott special meeting on legal action against football program
- Philly officer kills man in traffic stop struggle