First they came for women's healthcare....
No, apparently the top priority in our state Senate is not filling the approximately $4 billion budget hole for next year or wrestling with job growth or figuring out what to do about our looming crises in state pensions and corrections. Instead, the very first bill to be passed out of a Senate committee this session is on abortion. That is not a typo.
Despite the many challenges facing our commonwealth, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee yesterday passed Senate Bill 3. This bill would ban insurance companies from offering abortion coverage in the health insurance exchanges created by the federal Affordable Care Act, aka healthcare reform, except in cases involving rape, incest, or when the mother's life is in danger. Even the rape and incest exceptions come with hurdles that could lead women to not have coverage.
(Pause for background: The exchanges provide a place where insurance companies can find more customers and customers can find lower rates because they are participating in a group, rather than as individuals. Essentially, it's a way for people without health insurance to shop for it. The exchanges were created by the federal law but will be administered by the states.)
Numerous senators and their staffers thought they were voting to prohibit coverage for taxpayer-funded abortions. The ACLU would oppose that, too, because we don't think poor women should be denied safe and critical care, but SB 3 goes much further. It completely bans insurance companies from covering abortion for customers in the exchanges, including those who pay for the coverage with their own money.
In fact, the Affordable Care Act already prohibits patients who get government subsidies from using the subsidies for abortion coverage. If a woman who participates in the exchange wants abortion coverage, she must get separate coverage and make a separate payment with her own money.
SB 3 wedges the government between a private insurance company and its customer. Talk about a government takeover of healthcare.
Looming over this debate is the recent indictment of Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia. Dr. Gosnell is accused of running an abortion clinic in which he allegedly killed live babies and one woman.
What our legislators don't get- and what we as civil libertarians have to push- is that there will be more Dr. Gosnells if the government continues to make it difficult for women to access safe abortion care. The Gosnell story gives us a look at a dark day in the future, if women cannot get the care they need. The back alley abortion will return.
We don't want to get to that day. SB 3 must be stopped.