January 28, 2011 — The Arkansas Senate on Thursday voted 27-8 to approve (SB 113) that would prevent health insurers participating in the new health insurance exchanges from offering abortion coverage, the AP/Texarkana Gazette reports. If women purchasing health coverage through the exchanges wish to have coverage for abortion, they would need to purchase separate policies or riders with private funds.Bill sponsor Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R) said, "This is about tax dollars and Arkansans have said overwhelmingly we don’t want to spend tax dollars on abortions." However, Sen. Joyce Elliott (D) said, "Nobody plans to have an abortion. Nobody plans to be a victim of rape or incest." Opponents of the bill noted that it does not permit exceptions for coverage of abortions for survivors of rape or incest (AP/Texarkana Gazette, 1/28). Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, said lawmakers should not single out abortion from the rest of health care coverage. She said, "Telling a woman to buy a separate abortion rider that doesn't even currently exist is not an answer" (Nuss, AP/Ventura County Star, 1/27).
The Arkansas House will now consider the bill. A spokesperson for Gov. Mike Beebe (D) said the governor is studying the measure but has not yet taken a position on it (AP/Texarkana Gazette, 1/28).