States opting out of abortion plans in new health law

WASHINGTON —  States increasingly are enacting legislation to opt out of a provision in the new federal health care law that would require coverage for abortion in "insurance exchanges."

For Planned Parenthood in Michigan, however, the health care law is playing a role in the opening of a Detroit-area clinic where abortions likely will be performed.

Regarding the "insurance exchanges," the health care reform measure signed into law by President Obama in March requires each state to offer at least one plan that covers abortion and one plan that does not. The law, however, allows states to opt out and bar insurance plans that cover abortions from participating in their exchanges.

Arizona and Tennessee both have enacted laws barring the use of government funds for insurance plans that cover abortions, according to Americans United for Life (AUL). Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill into law, while Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen permitted the legislation to become law without his signature.

The Florida, Mississippi and Missouri legislatures have approved similar bills. Neither Florida Gov. Charlie Crist nor Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon have announced whether they will sign the measure. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is expected to sign his state's legislation, AUL reported May 11.

A bill in Louisiana has gained passage in one house of the legislature.

Other state legislatures are pursuing passage of opt-out legislation. AUL reports 29 states "have either introduced an opt-out bill, are planning to introduce a bill shortly, or are laying the ground work to introduce a bill as soon as their legislative calendars permit."

"There are those who argue that current law already prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion," AUL's Daniel McConchie and Mary Harned wrote April 28. "However, they misunderstand what the federal law actually does. The law directs federal, not state, taxpayer money into subsidies of the insurance plans.... If states want to prevent federal taxpayer funds from being used, they must pass a new law to do it."

AUL has drafted model legislation, The Federal Abortion-mandate Opt-out Act, to assist legislators who want their states to prohibit insurance plans that cover abortions from being in their exchanges.

Meanwhile, the new health care law is helping make possible a new Planned Parenthood clinic in suburban Detroit, according to The Detroit News. Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan will open a clinic in Oakland County in the next 18 months, The News reported. The new clinic likely will provide abortions.

The health care reform measure and Michigan's depressed economy are expected by Planned Parenthood to produce "an onslaught" of women seeking birth control and abortions, said Lori Lamerand, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan.

"Over the last couple of years, we've been getting calls that go, 'I'm pregnant, we don't have health insurance, my husband isn't working and we can't afford another child.' These calls have become routine for us," Lamerand told The News.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is the country's leading abortion provider. PPFA affiliates performed more than 305,000 abortions in 2007, the most recent year for which statistics are available. PPFA received about $350 million in government grants and contracts in 2008.

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