Abortion bill passes House, rankles critics - abc27 WHTM

Abortion bill passes House, rankles critics

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It's House Bill 818. Supporters, many from the midstate, call it a no-brainer that merely prevents tax dollars from funding abortions. Simple and basic legislation, they say.

"It says we're drawing the line," said Representative Seth Grove (R-York County). "No government funding for abortions."

"We do not pay for them now," said Representative Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion), "and we should not pay for them as we go into this new age of federal health care."

But critics insist it's not that simple. They say, not so fast.

"What they're trying to do is they're trying to restrict access to abortion coverage," said Andy Hoover of the American Civil Liberty's Union.

As with most things at the Capitol, it's not as simple as some would have you believe.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, which takes effect January 1, coverage for elective abortions would exist, but an amendment would require that abortion coverage be paid for separately. Tax dollars will not fund abortion coverage under Obamacare.

House Bill 818 goes a step further in removing abortion coverage entirely from Pennsylvania's exchange. Women would have to go outside the exchange to purchase that insurance, which currently doesn't exist in the marketplace.

"A person could still have an abortion, but they'd have to pay out of pocket," said Hoover.

Sari Stevens, executive director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania, is vowing to fight.

"The bill represents big government telling private citizens what they can do with their own money and we think that's wrong," Stevens said.

Though a few dozen Democrats supported it, House Republicans will once again be labeled 'anti-woman.' Will Tallman (R-York County) knows it's coming and is expecting it.

"This was a wide, bipartisan vote," Tallman said. "The vote was 144-53. In my legislative district, it is very conservative and very pro-life."

The anti-woman label is ironic because 818 was sponsored by Oberlander.

"I take issue with that generalization," she said. "I'm a woman. I believe in women's health. This does not change what they are permitted to do now with their own dollars."

But Stevens wonders about conservative Republicans who want less regulation and less government interference, but continue to push abortion bills. Similar bills passed the House and Senate last year, but their differences couldn't be reconciled before the end of the session so they never made it to the governor's desk.

"I'm surprised after the last election cycle that divisive issues would come up again and they'd spend this much time on them," Stevens said. "I know the public isn't there, so I'm surprised. I think it's unfortunate."

House Bill 818 is now on to the Senate for consideration.

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