The Georgia Senate approved a controversial bill to prohibit abortion coverage in the State Health Benefit Plan. The bill also bans abortion coverage from policies under a federal healthcare exchange that Georgians can participate in under the Affordable Care Act.
The State Department of Community Health already blocked abortion coverage in state employee insurance policies last year, but this measure puts the change into law.
Republicans speaking in favor of the bill say it helps ensure that taxpayer money would not go to fund abortions. Senator Mike Crane was one of those speaking in support of the legislation.
“We cannot go into the homes of Georgians and take from their property and go and kill the innocent unborn. I won’t stand for it.”
But Democrats argued the bill is a war on women. At one point in the debate, five Democratic female Senators, including Valencia Seay, stood and held coat hangers. Democrats said the coat hangers symbolized the days where women had to have back alley abortions.
“Abortions are legal, and what we’re doing every time we come down here to this chamber is taking us back little bit by little bit, and this time it’s in the name of taxes. Well guess what, I pay taxes. Women pay taxes. If you don’t want your tax dollars going toward anything in your healthcare plan don’t use it, but don’t deny me a right to use my healthcare plan, because I pay my portion, and I too am a taxpayer.”
And Democratic Senator Nan Orrock says the bill contains no exceptions for rape, incest or fetal anomalies. Orrock also argued the bill's language is so ambiguous it could affect all insurance policies in Georgia.
“It is a radical, radical, radical bill.”
But Republican Senator Renee Unterman, the only female Republican Senator, battled back against Democrats.
“It is a new, new low when you get to putting coat hangers on the Senate and trying to draw on emotions that occurred in the 20s and 30s to try and get people to vote and drive out a vote in an election year.”
Democrats also accused Republicans of using the measure as a wedge issue to attract voters in an election year.
Eventually, Senators approved the bill 35 to 18 almost entirely on party lines. Republican Senator Fran Millar was the lone Republican to vote against the bill. The legislation makes an exception for pregnant women who have a medical emergency such as death.
Currently, 24 other states have laws in place that restrict abortion coverage in federal or state health exchanges.
The bill now heads to the House.