Approval of a hostile amendment from Rep. Jeff Wardlaw caused tabling today in the House Public Health Committee of SB 113 that would effectively make it impossible for private insurance companies participating in new insurance exchanges to provide abortion coverage. Wardlaw's amendment would allow private companies to continue to offer the varying coverage they now offer. The Insurance Department said a survey found that no company offers coverage of elective abortion, but some offer coverage of abortions in cases of rape and incest and hospital abortions ordered by doctors.
The anti-abortion forces behind Sen. Cecile Bledsoe's bill found the amendment unacceptable and tabled the bill after it was added on an 11-8 vote. They want coverage to be allowed only through separately purchased riders, something no company now offers. Abortion opponents contend allowing the private coverage runs afoul of the state constitutional limit on public funding of abortions except to save a mother's life. But opponents of the bill said there are ample protections in federal and state law to insure that no public money supports private abortion coverage in insurance exchanges established under the new federal health care reform law. Insurance companies would be required to pay for abortions only with dollars contributed in private premiums. If this is correct — and no testimony was offered to disprove it — the amendment clearly was constitutional. As the ACLU said, the bill isn't about money, but another attempt to encroach on the right of women to have abortions.