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House Moves to Prevent ‘Exchanges’ from Covering Abortions

Lawmakers approved the measure 70-23. Supporters want to make sure Tennessee taxpayers are not subsiding abortions. Opponents worry the Legislature is “trying to regulate an industry that hasn’t really begun.”

The House of Representatives approved a measure Monday night that seeks to ensure Tennessee tax dollars not be used to fund abortions under new federal health care overhaul.

Sponsored by Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, the measure would prohibit coverage of abortions through the insurance exchanges established in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama last month.

“This issue boils down to one thing, and that is to make sure that Tennessee tax payers are not subsiding abortions as it pertains to these new government-subsidized health care exchanges,” Hill said Monday.

Lawmakers approved the measure 70-23, although some worried the language in the bill would exempt certain types of birth controls pills or devices.

“We’re on dangerous ground here because we’re trying to regulate an industry that hasn’t really begun,” said Rep. Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis.

House bill 2681 does not change the current state law which allows abortions. Women who access government-subsidized health insurance would have to pay for an abortion out of pocket, or through TennCare if they are indigent, Hill said.

Abortion coverage was a hot topic in Washington when lawmakers hammered out the health care reform language last month. President Obama signed an executive order promising that abortions be left out of the reforms’ health care coverage.

A line in the legislation ultimately left it up to states to ban abortion coverage in qualified health plans.

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