New state legislation that would sharply restrict abortions in Pennsylvania was condemned on Friday by a statewide abortion rights group, Pennsylvanians for Choice.
A bill introduced by Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, would prohibit private health insurance plans sold in Pennsylvania's state "exchange" -- created under the new federal health care law -- from offering abortions and require rape victims to report the crime within 72 hours in order to receive an abortion.
The insurance exchanges, which don't go into effect until 2014, will serve those who do not have access to employer-based health plans, including the unemployed and small business employees.
Under the law, any health insurance plan that contracts with the exchange must create a system to ensure no federal funds are used for abortion coverage -- including the collection of two separate payments from the beneficiary, one for abortion coverage and one for all other health care coverage.
The proposed bill would deny insurance plans participating in the exchange from covering abortions except in cases where the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, or where the life of the woman is in danger.
The bill would require also rape survivors to personally report the crime and identify the assailant, if known, within 72 hours in order for their health insurance to cover an abortion procedure.
Susan Frietsche, a member of Pennsylvanians for Choice and senior staff attorney at the Women's Law Project, said Pennsylvania courts have already ruled "that it's unconstitutional to make rape survivors jump through the kind of insulting and burdensome hoops this bill would create."
A spokesman for Mr. White said other states have enacted similar laws and that the senator felt "the time was right" for this legislation.