- - Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Department of Health and Human Services has set in motion the Obamacare abortion premium mandate, a provision that permits insurance plans that cover abortions to participate in state exchanges and requires all enrollees in those plans - even those with religious and moral objections to abortion - to pay a separate monthly premium to cover abortions. But many states are diligently passing laws to stop it.

The administration’s health care law permits a state to opt out of allowing health insurance plans that cover abortions to participate in the new health insurance exchanges within that state and thereby prohibit taxpayer money from subsidizing plans that cover abortions.

South Dakota recently became the 15th state to enact such a law. Based on model language by Americans United for Life, South Dakota’s law expressly states, “No qualified health plan offered through a health insurance exchange established in the state may include elective abortion coverage.” In other words, anyone who wants to have insurance coverage for abortion must pay for it outside of the government-subsidized exchange. Taxpayers and persons enrolled in insurance plans in the South Dakota exchange will not be forced to pay for the abortions of other South Dakotans.

South Dakota won’t be the last. At least seven other states have similar bills pending. Additionally, several other states are planning to include similar language in their legislation to establish the insurance exchanges in their state.

It’s worth noting that most of the states that have opted out so far have not even enacted laws to establish their exchanges. Also, the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to rule on the constitutionality of Obamacare. Americans United for Life and other organizations filed an amicus brief highlighting the free-exercise violation imposed by the abortion surcharge. Furthermore, the exchanges do not become operational until 2014.

So, why the rush to action by so many states? Because a requirement to subsidize abortion is so deeply contentious and contrary to the public policy of most states, legislators are acting now to guarantee abortion coverage will never be subsidized in their state.

Interestingly, this debate has motivated some states to go beyond just limiting abortion coverage in the Obamacare exchanges. Eight states prohibit all private insurance plans operating within the state from covering abortion except through an optional rider that an individual must choose to purchase separately. This prevents all residents in those states from being forced to pay for abortions with their insurance premiums.

The reason for these laws is simple: While abortion is legal, millions of Americans do not want to help pay for it in any way. State legislators across the country are striving to ensure they won’t have to.

Daniel McConchie is vice president of government affairs for Americans United for Life, where Mary Harned is staff counsel.