By Peter J. Smith
Updated 0614/2010 8:20pm
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana, June 14, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Louisiana State House successfully has passed a measure that will make “the Bayou State” the fourth in the nation to opt-out of the abortion mandates of the recently enacted national health care reform.
Democrats and Republicans in the state Senate approved HB 1247, the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act, authored by Representative Frank Hoffman (R-West Monroe), by an overwhelming majority of 28 – 3 on Monday.
H.R. 1247 prohibits abortion coverage by health insurers in the state-run health insurance exchange that is scheduled to go into effect in 2014 as part of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law. A provision of the national law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, gives states the explicit right to ban health insurance companies receiving public subsidies under the state health exchange, from providing abortion coverage.
The Louisiana measure has just one exception for insurance companies, permitting abortion in cases where mother’s life is in danger from “a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury” including “a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.” The law does not permit the killing of unborn children conceived in situations of rape and incest.
The Senate made some changes to the House bill, and therefore the state’s House of Representatives is expected to hold a vote within the next few days to approve the amended bill.
The bill’s original form as passed by the House would have banned all health insurance providers in Louisiana from offering policies and plans that would pay for abortions. However the Senate committee amended the bill to apply to only those health insurers participating in the state exchanges mandated by the federal health care reform.
In a telephone interview with LifeSiteNews.com, Benjamin Clapper, Executive Director of Louisiana Right to Life Federation, said that while the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, which amended the House bill, did not allow them to ban private health insurers from providing coverage for abortions, he was not aware of any insurers that cover abortions in Louisiana anyway.
“It won’t change much right now, but we certainly would have preferred that and the abortion opt out,” he said. “But the committee did not allow us to do that.”
Clapper said that the Bioethics Defense Fund did the heavy lifting of drafting the opt-out legislation, but the model opt-out legislation from the National Right to Life Committee gave them the idea of also banning abortion coverage by private insurers.
After the Senate’s changes have been approved by the House, the bill will be sent to the desk of Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is expected to sign the measure.
In a separate statement, Clapper praised the Louisiana legislature for taking the opt-out bill over “its final major hurdle,” saying that state lawmakers representing the will of the people of Louisiana, “have resoundingly sent a message to our nation that abortion is not health care."
"Once HB 1247 has been stamped by the House and signed by the Governor, we will be at least the 4th state to opt out of abortion subsidies since the President signed his national health care reform bill into law three short months ago on March 23rd,” said Clapper. “We have helped initiate a growing state-by-state movement declaring that health care reform should not be used to expand abortion."
Lawmakers in Arizona, Mississippi, and Tennessee have enacted similar opt-out language for their respective states. Missouri legislators have also passed their own opt-out bill, which is awaiting their governor’s signature. Opt-out language was passed by lawmakers in Oklahoma and Florida, but then vetoed by their respective governors.
Oklahoma’s Gov. Brad Henry delayed his veto of his state’s opt-out bill to the point where the legislature had no time to mount another veto override effort and conclude pressing budgetary matters before the end of the legislative session. Gov. Charlie Crist, who scrubbed the pro-life section of his independent campaign for governor, also vetoed opt-out legislation that also would have required women to receive an ultrasound before going in for an abortion.