HARRISBURG- The Pennsylvania Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted today for legislation to ban insurance companies from offering coverage of abortion services to patients in the medical exchanges created by federal healthcare reform. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania called the committee vote on Senate Bill 3 "a step backwards" for reproductive health in the commonwealth.
"All women deserve access to safe, legal, and critical care," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "This bill is a form of discrimination against women who participate in the exchanges."
SB 3 passed the committee by a vote of 12-2. The bill was introduced on January 14 and posted on the committee's schedule late Monday afternoon, giving the public little notice of today's meeting.
"We heard a lot about government intervention in healthcare in the last year-plus," Hoover said. "SB 3 throws up a giant government roadblock between insurance companies and their customers. The bill denies women the coverage they may need and denies insurance companies the right to offer a product that the market demands."
Approximately 80 percent of private insurance plans currently offer coverage for abortion services.
Hoover also noted that Congress debated abortion when it considered the Affordable Care Act and created a system in which women use their own money and send a separate payment for abortion coverage.
"Congress's compromise is cumbersome and far from ideal, but at least women can still get the coverage," Hoover said. "SB 3 shuts down access altogether."
With its passage in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, SB 3 now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.