Republican-controlled legislatures in several states have passed or introduced bills that would prohibit state-run health insurance exchanges from covering abortion in any of their plans. But Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Sims (D) attempted to halt such a bill in his state on Tuesday with a scathing speech about freedom and personal responsibility.
"This legislation is about advancing an ideology of oppression and suppression, even if such a plan means ignoring the oath of office that each of us swore," Sims told his colleagues during a floor debate in the House of Representatives. "As a reminder, Mr. Speaker, I do believe this has been forgotten entirely by many of my colleagues today: Each of us put our hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. We did not place our hands on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."
Pennsylvania's state House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to pass House Bill 818, which bans state insurance plans set up under the Affordable Care Act from offering abortion coverage. The bill's Republican backers argued that it prevents taxpayer dollars from being used to pay for abortion.
Opponents of the bill contend that it would penalize poor women who cannot afford to access abortion, and would prevent women from using their own money to pay for an insurance plan that covers the procedure. Currently, more than 80 percent of private insurance plans cover abortion.
"As a civil rights advocate, I see clearly as do millions of men and women across the commonwealth that this bill's purpose is to discriminate against women, and most often women with less means than many of my colleagues have today," Sims said.
He added, "I'm not sure how I find myself in this room of all rooms as one of the men who respects women the most, but as is so often the case, I see that respect for the person and personal responsibility is clearly more of a slogan than a reality. For these reasons, as well as those given by my colleagues, I ask that members vote no on House Bill 881 and reaffirm the Constitution, the freedom of marketplace, and freedom from an oppressive legislature."