Democrats in the Washington state Senate has passed a bill requiring health insurance providers to cover abortions if they also cover maternity care.
The Reproductive Parity Act passed nearly along party lines by a 26 to 22 vote. If a health care plan covers maternity care, it must also include “equivalent coverage to permit the abortion of a pregnancy.”
Joseph Backholm, president of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, called the legislation “Orwellian” because it morally and legally equates birth and abortion.
“The idea is, if you’re going to pay for a child to be born, you must also pay for it to be killed,” Mr. Backholm said. “The way they’re trying to do that is to run roughshod over the very sincere differences of opinion that there are on the issue. If you’re providing insurance for your employees, which is obviously a very good thing, then you must provide insurance for something that many, many people believe is immoral.”
Senate Republicans proposed several amendments to the legislation, including exemptions for employers with religious or moral objections to abortion and prohibitions on abortions motivated by a child’s biological sex or Down syndrome diagnosis.
All the amendments were rejected.
“The decision to have an abortion is a difficult, painful decision,” said Sen. Steve Hobbs, a Democrat who has sponsored the legislation for the last six years, reported the Spokesman-Review. “It’s her decision. This places trust where it belongs.”
The legislation now goes to the House, where Democrats passed similar legislation as recently as 2014. Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, previously promised to sign the legislation.
Mr. Backholm said he anticipates the bill will ultimately be enacted.
“In past years, it passed the House and died in the Senate,” he said. “So if you’re Vegas, you’re going to bet that it does become law in Washington state.”
Washington is looking to join other blue states that have recently taken action to increase access to abortion.
Last year, Oregon enacted landmark legislation providing free abortions for all, including immigrants residing in the state illegally. That state’s Reproductive Health Equity Act required insurance companies to cover abortions at no additional cost to their customers.
It also allocated $500,000 to pay for the abortions of women who would be eligible for coverage under the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s Medicaid program, if not for their “immigration status.”
California and New York also require almost all health insurance plans to cover abortion, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
The Washington Senate is considering two additional pieces of pro-choice legislation that would catch the state up to Oregon.
The Employee Reproductive Choice Act would require insurers to cover contraception and abortion at no additional cost, and the Reproductive Health Access for All Act would reimburse the cost of abortions, contraception, sterilizations and gender hormone treatments for non-U.S. citizens.
Mr. Backholm attributed the flurry of pro-choice legislation to pro-life gains in red states and on the federal level.
“It’s in reaction to the national trend toward life,” he said. “You see that in Washington, D.C., and I think for the abortion industry they’re reacting to that by taking everything they can in places where they have opportunities.”