Florida Gov. Crist Vetoes Bill That Would Have Prohibited Abortion Funding Under Obamacare and Said Individuals Could Not Be Forced to Buy Insurance

By Matt Cover | June 14, 2010 | 5:40 PM EDT

Gov. Charlie Crist announces his veto of Senate Bill 6 concerning teacher tenure and merit pay on Thursday, April 15, 2010, in Tallahassee, Fla. Already trailing badly in the GOP Senate primary race, Crist further alienated many powerful Republican and business interests Thursday by vetoing a contentious teacher merit-pay and anti-tenure law they pushed through the Legislature. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

(CNSNews.com) – Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (I) vetoed a bill that contained provisions that could have potentially shielded Floridians from some of the most controversial aspects of the health care overhaul enacted in March.  The provisions prohibited government funds from going to health insurance plans that cover abortions and stated that it was the policy of the state of Florida that government could not compel people to buy health insurance. 
Originally a bill to reform the inspections process at Florida nursing homes, the bill quickly became a cause celebre for Florida conservatives after state senators added several amendments to the bill.
Among those amendments were two simple additions that may have prevented Florida from meaningful participation in the Obama administration’s new national health care scheme.
One of those amendments, number 355772, would have “declared” that the “public policy” of the state of Florida was that government – at any level – could not compel any Floridian to purchase health insurance or health services.
The amendment would have provided a direct challenge to the individual mandate that is central to Obama’s health care overhaul. That mandate would require that every person certify to the federal government that they have some level of government-approved health insurance – either independently or through their employer – or face higher taxes.
The Florida amendment, which Crist vetoed, would have directly challenged the federal insurance mandate, a mandate which is already being disputed by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum – a man who is running to succeed Crist.
The second provision Crist vetoed struck at the heart of what became the most contentious issue surrounding the Obama health care overhaul: abortion funding.
The health care law signed by President Obama would have allowed people to use federal subsidies to purchase heatlh care plans that cover abortion, a fundamental change in long-standing federal policy, enacted as the Hyde Amendment in annual appropriations bills the prevented federal funds from going to any health care plan that covered abortion.
The new health care law, however, did included a provision to allow individual states to “opt-out” of abortion funding and ban subsidies from paying for any part of a health insurance plan that covered abortion.
In a separate amendment, number 753340, the Florida Legislature voted to do just that. This amendment stated:
“A health insurance policy or group health insurance policy purchased in whole or in part with state or federal funds through an exchange created pursuant to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may not provide coverage for an abortion…” [ellipses delete reference to state law defining abortion]
In other words, in the health insurance exchange that Florida plans to set up, Floridians would not be able to use their federal or state health insurance subsidies to purchase insurance plans that cover abortions.
This language would have provided the unequivocal guarantee that pro-life activists and legislators failed to secure in the original health care overhaul.
By vetoing this provision, Crist ensured that – unless the law is changed – federal insurance subsidies can be used to purchase plans that provide abortion services.
The amendment said that the state would consider any use of federal subsidies to buy a plan as disqualifying, a provision which circumvented another purported federal compromise that said that federal dollars had to be separated by insurance companies and that a separate “abortion surcharge” must be applied to any plan that covers abortions.
This compromise, deemed insufficient by pro-life legislators and activists, claimed to prevent federal funds from subsidizing abortions.
Pro-life groups said that separating federal and personal funds would not ultimately prevent the federal subsidization of abortion, since it was the federal subsidies that allowed women to purchase the abortion coverage in the first place, regardless of whether federal funds were ever actually paid out to an abortionist.
In writing such a broad prohibition, Florida legislators took the side of pro-life activists and many conservatives in declaring that any use of public funds to purchase abortion coverage amounted to public subsidization of abortion.
The underlying bill, H.B. 1143, passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the Florida Legislature: 76-44 in the House and 23-16 in the Senate.
Crist, in his letter explaining his veto, said that the provisions in the bill would not “change hearts” on the issue of abortion, the only “true and effective” method of reducing abortions, he claimed.
“There are many medical and fiscal barriers that could be placed upon a woman in order to prevent her from following through on her constitutionally protected decision to end a pregnancy,” Crist wrote June 11.
“However, such measures do not change hearts, which is the only true and effective way to ensure that a new life coming into the world is loved, cherished, and receives the care that is deserved,” he added.