A bill that would stop state health plans from covering abortions cleared a South Carolina House committee Tuesday.
It would allow the state to opt out of abortion coverage in the state-based abortion exchanges that will be created under the new health care law. Five states have already opted out.
The bill is one of the GOP’s priorities after similar legislation failed in the Senate last year. Rep. Greg Delleney (R-Chester) said taxpayer money should not be used to fund an action many view as immoral.
When I have a conscientious objection about it, why should my premiums go into the same pool that pays for abortions? Why shouldn’t someone else that wants abortion coverage be required to issue their own premium for that specific coverage? What’s wrong with that?
However, Democrats said they feared the bill goes too far and does not make exceptions for rape or incest. Rep. Bakari Sellers (D-Bamberg) said it did not provide an option for women who had been violated through no fault of their own.
I think that’s a travesty that we think we can tell women what to do. I think… if somebody holds a knife to your throat and takes something from you that’s rightfully yours, I think that’s a travesty that you’d say, “I’m sorry. That’s an elective procedure (not a medical emergency).” The woman will then look you in the face and say, “I did not elect to be raped.”
The language was added as an amendment to the “Freedom of Conscience Act,” which passed the House Judiciary Committee largely along party lines Tuesday. The main purpose of the bill is to protect doctors and others from losing their job if they refuse to perform an abortion, euthanasia, or another similar operation.
The bill would allow people on the state plan to purchase riders from private insurance groups to cover an abortion. However Sellers said no one plans in advance to be raped, so the riders don’t help.
An exception is made if the mother’s life is in danger. An amendment proposed by Sellers that would have also exempted rape and incest was tabled.
Democrats expressed concerns the bill would also cut off women’s access to birth control pills– especially in a poor area with few pharmacies– if pharmacists began refusing to sell the pills due to personal moral objections. Delleney said those fears were unnecessary.
State-funded abortions became an issue last year when the House approved similar legislation that did not get out of the Senate. A group of Republicans held up a budget vote in May, arguing the language needed to be re-inserted. The group finally backed down after getting a promise from the GOP leadership that it would make ending state-funded abortions a priority in 2011.
The bill now heads to the House floor, where it will likely be debated next week.
The committee unanimously passed a separate bill that protects a fetus that survives an attempted abortion. The bill would require the infant to be treated the same as any other person if it is “born alive.” South Carolina borrowed from a federal law that covers hospitals at military bases in creating the legislation.