While no one is sure what form insurance exchanges set to be implemented under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) will take in Pennsylvania; barring court challenges, insurance purchased through the exchanges will not cover abortion.
The bill became law Monday with Gov. Tom Corbett's signature.
The bill, which was co-sponsored in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by Rep. Kathy Rapp, (R-67) and backed in the state Senate by Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-25), bars insurance plans offered through the healthcare exchanges from covering abortions.
According to the text of the bill, "No qualified health plan offered in this Commonwealth through the health insurance exchange shall include coverage for the performance of any abortion unless the reason the abortion is performed is one for which the expenditure of public funds would be permitted under 18 Pa.C.S. 3215(c) (relating to publicly owned facilities; public officials and public funds)."
Reasons for expenditure of funds under 18 Pa.C.S. 3215(c) include rape, incest and cases in which the procedure must be performed to spare the life of the mother.
When the measure passed in the state House of Representatives in April, state Rep. Rapp said, ""This legislation is every bit as essential for protecting innocent life as the landmark Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act that was enacted 25 years ago and Act 122 of 2011 that was signed into law to hold abortion clinics to the same high-standards as other health care facilities. Whether one is adamantly pro-life, like me, or pro-choice or indifferent, the vast majority of Pennsylvania taxpayers do not support any of their hard-earned dollars being used to fund the murder of helpless babies."
The state senate passed the bill without amendment earlier this month.
"House Bill 818 takes an important step to guarantee that taxpayer-supported plans in Pennsylvania's health insurance exchanges, when created, are in line with our state's long standing policy to prohibit abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or to avert the death of the mother," Scarnati said following senate passage of the measure. ""Current Pennsylvania law ensures taxpayer dollars are not spent on elective abortions and this important principle should remain in place," Scarnati continued. "Most Pennsylvanians do not want their tax dollars to pay for elective abortions. I'm proud to support HB 818 which will serve to further protect the unborn."
Under prior, existing Pennsylvania and United States law, public funds cannot be used to pay for abortions in most cases.
Plans in the exchange are offered by private companies rather than public programs such as Medicaid. The exchanges are designed to allow individual consumers who do not qualify for Medicaid to shop for private insurance.
Some low-income consumers would qualify for subsidies to help cover insurance costs, but plans would not be directly subsidized.
The plan does not prohibit purchase of abortion coverage outside of the exchange. Laws banning abortion outright were deemed unconstitutional in the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe-v-Wade decision.