Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange bill contains DFL-introduced anti-abortion measure

Fritz, a pro-life Democrat, wants to use Health Exchange legislation to restrict access to abortions.
Fritz, a pro-life Democrat, wants to use Health Exchange legislation to restrict access to abortions.

Last night, in a largely party-line 72-58 vote, the Minnesota House of Representatives approved legislation to create the statewide Health Insurance Exchange mandated by Obamacare.

SEE ALSO: Republicans sound the trumpet as Obamacare contributes to St. Jude's Minnesota layoffs

But a controversial amendment introduced into the bill by Rep. Patti Fritz, D-Faribault, would restrict coverage for abortions offered by health care plans participating in the exchange.

First, via the Star Tribune, here's some background about the bill approved by the House last night:

[The system is] intended to help individuals and small businesses find the most affordable health-care plans. An estimated 1.3 million Minnesotans are expected to buy coverage through the system.

To its supporters, the exchange will provide affordable health care to hundreds of thousands of people who are currently uninsured or struggling to pay for their own coverage. To its opponents, the exchange is an expensive, slapdash experiment that they fear will drive up insurance premiums for all Minnesotans...

The exchange is to be up and running next January. Its detractors worry about creating such a massive system, with an expected $60 million budget, on such a tight timetable...

If the state doesn't produce a plan of its own by the end of the month, Minnesotans will have to use an exchange set up by, and run out of, Washington...

Setting up a state-based exchange by the end of this year will mean creating a massive computer network that will allow consumers to go online, enter information about their families, finances and health-care needs and then comparison shop between plans and prices. It's a bit like the online sites that let people shop for the best rates on hotels or plane tickets -- if those systems tapped into federal databases and countless health plans and cost more than $60 million a year to operate.

Second, here's information about Fritz's anti-choice amendment via RH Reality Check:

Democratic Representative Patti Fritz, a long-time anti-choice legislator, has offered a new amendment to the health exchange bill which will not only dismantle the rights of low-income women to funding for safe abortion care, but will also restrict abortion coverage in the state's insurance exchange. Her amendment, which remained in the bill that passed the House, would forbid any plan in the exchange from covering abortions unless the procedure was necessary to save the recipient's life, or if she was a victim of a sexual assault reported immediately to the police.
[Here's the actual amendment text specifying the circumstances under which Health Exchange plans can cover abortions] (2) when the pregnancy is the result of criminal sexual conduct as defined in section 1.9609.342, clauses (c), (d), (e), item (i), and (f), and the incident is reported within 48 hours after the incident occurs to a valid law enforcement agency for investigation, unless the victim is physically unable to report the criminal sexual conduct, in which case the report shall be made within 48 hours after the victim becomes physically able to report the criminal sexual conduct; or (3) when the pregnancy is the result of incest, but only if the incident and relative are reported to a valid law enforcement agency for investigation prior to the abortion."

The amendment would create a stark turn in access to abortion in a state, where a woman's right to choose has not only been long-acknowledged, but as a result of the 1996 Doe v. Gomez ruling, has been a protected right enjoyed by all women, regardless of income.

The House bill will go to committee with a Senate version which has yet to pass, and any differences between the two will be negotiated for a final time. In that committee the amendment could be stripped. But should the Senate add the same amendment to their final bill, Governor Mark Dayton will be stuck with a decision that is essentially a win-win for anti-choice factions. He would have to either veto the full bill, which would destroy and exchange that they never wanted in the first place, or allow the exchange to go into effect with the new restrictions. If that happens, abortion opponents have the challenge to Doe v. Gomez that they have been maneuvering to get for years.

In a press release,Linnea House, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota, said, "It is both degrading and heart wrenching to force a survivor of rape to report her traumatizing experience to the government in order to cover a legal medical procedure."

"Some politicians want to ban all abortions, so they are trying to take away insurance coverage in order to make an abortion unaffordable," House added.

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