Legislation would ban insurance for abortions
BATON ROUGE — A bill that would bar health insurance coverage for elective abortions in Louisiana is headed to the full House for debate after getting overwhelming support Wednesday from the House Insurance Committee.
Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, said he introduced the bill to prohibit elective abortions in the state purchasing pools set up by the federal health overhaul legislation, a prohibition allowed under the federal bill.
However, Hoffmann’s proposal goes further, also banning elective abortion coverage by private insurers.
Opponents said the measure was improper meddling in private business and personal health care decisions, saying women could lose benefits they already have.
“This bill denies women the ability to obtain health coverage for abortion even with their own private funds,” said Julie Mickelberry of Planned Parenthood of Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta. She added, “This bill seeks to only put more obstacles on women seeking abortion care.”
Rep. Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, committee chairman, said he doesn’t know of any private insurance plan in Louisiana that covers abortion, except when a mother’s life is in danger. That exception remains in the bill.
“The overwhelming majority of elective abortions are not paid by insurance. They’re paid by cash. The lack of insurance coverage for elective abortions has not been a prohibition to people being able to get the procedure,” said state Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine, who supported the bill on behalf of Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Rape and incest victims would also be excluded from using health coverage for abortion.
Hoffmann’s proposal would require any doctor who bills an insurer for an abortion that is necessary to save the mother’s life to certify that in writing and keep it on file for at least seven years.
Mickelberry said that provision could scare some doctors from performing abortions, even in life-threatening situations, because of concerns those decisions could be challenged.
State-run insurance purchasing pools, called exchanges, required by the federal health overhaul legislation, would allow people to have the same kind of buying power that employees of big companies have -- and are allowed to prohibit elective abortion coverage under the federal bill.
The committee voted 8-1 for the bill. The lone opponent was Rep. Juan LaFonta, D-New Orleans.
Louisiana has enacted a series of restrictions on abortions over the years, many of which have been overturned in courts. Lawmakers also placed language in the statute that explains the state only allows abortion procedures because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled they are legal. Hoffmann’s bill reenforces that stance.
“If those decisions of the United States Supreme Court are ever reversed or modified or the United States Constitution is amended to allow protection of the unborn, then the former policy of this state to prohibit abortions shall be enforced,” Hoffman’s bill says.