Washington State Debates Insurance-Funded Abortion Bill
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, speaks at a pro-choice rally on Feb. 18, 2013, in Olympia, Wash. in support of H.B. 1044. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
Since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, at least 17 states have passed legislation that in some way restricts abortion coverage in their insurance exchanges, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Yet in Washington state, legislators seems to be moving against the trend of conservative abortion opposition. In February, the “Reproductive Parity Act,” or H.B. 1044, passed in the Washington House by a vote of 54-43. The bill, which would require Washington health insurers to cover elective, also known as voluntary, abortions heads to the Senate next.
A backer in the Senate said on Monday that 25 out of 49 Senators have signed on to vote yes on the bill, should it reach the floor.
Forty-three years ago Washington legalized abortion by popular vote, three years ahead of Roe v. Wade. The chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, Elaine Rose, said the bill is important because it maintains access to abortion that Washington citizens have wanted and supported since 1970.
Angela Connelly, president of the Washington Women’s Network, spoke in opposition to the bill, saying that it forces those who are against abortion to participate in the system. The bill was amended to include an exemption for religious organizations, but opponents say the language is “vague” and will not provide those organizations real protection from providing coverage.
Language in the Affordable Care Act pushed by congressional Republicans mandates that insurance companies selling their plans on the state exchanges separate abortion funding from other health coverage. This rule would take effect next year. Supporters including Rose argue that most plans and carriers in Washington cover abortion now, and that the bill would simply uphold the status quo.
“It’s not expanding abortion coverage,” said Democratic Rep. Eileen Cody, primary sponsor of the bill. “It’s ensuring the rights of women to get what they’re paying for now and to continue their freedom of choice.”
The likely success of this bill displays a stark contrast to the recent passage of a law in North Dakota, which forbids abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected – sometimes as early as six weeks into pregnancy.
(Photo Credit: Katu.com)