HARRISBURG- In a stunning vote today, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted to prohibit insurance companies from covering abortion care for women with serious health risks. House Bill 1977 prohibits insurance companies from covering abortion care in the insurance exchange created by the federal healthcare reform law, with exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and imminent death. The House voted down an amendment offered by Representative Eddie Day Pashinski of Wilkes Barre that would have added "medical emergency" to the list of exceptions.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania expressed astonishment after the vote.

"The state House is a health hazard," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "That chamber is a danger to women's health. Either they don't understand the healthcare needs of women or they don't care."

The Pashinski amendment to HB 1977 referenced the definition of "medical emergency" that is currently in the Abortion Control Act. That definition states that a medical emergency occurs when a pregnant woman's condition "so complicates the medical condition of a pregnant woman as to necessitate the immediate abortion of her pregnancy to avert her death or for which a delay will create serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of major bodily function."

Earlier this year, Susquehanna Polling and Research found that 79 percent of Pennsylvanians believe that insurance companies should cover abortion coverage in these situations.

"The state House is completely out of step with the public," Hoover said. "79 percent of Pennsylvanians support this coverage while 60 percent of state reps voted against it."

The House is likely to vote on final passage of HB 1977 sometime next week.