Washington Democrats propose bill to mandate elective abortion coverage

Democratic members of the Washington State House are trying for a third year to pass a bill that would require maternity care health insurance to cover elective abortions. The Affordable Care Act requires that all insurance plans provide maternity benefits, so in effect this is a blanket forced abortion coverage mandate.

According to the bill’s summary:

If a health plan issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2015, provides coverage for maternity care or services, it must also provide substantially equivalent coverage to permit the voluntary termination of a pregnancy. The plan may not limit a woman’s access to services related to the voluntary termination of a pregnancy, except for generally applicable terms and conditions, including cost sharing.

The bill’s summary points to the fact that the “Hyde Amendment” added to most federal spending bills does not allow federal funds to be used for abortions, with the exceptions of cases involving rape, incest, or life of the mother. States, however, can cover abortion costs.

The Seattle Pi reports that while the bill is likely to pass the House, it is “questionable” whether it can pass the Senate.  Last year, the bill did not pass the Senate.

According to Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, there are bigger issue to address:

To me to sit here and say the most important bill that we’re going to pass this year is a bill that no other state has passed … I think we need to get back to kitchen table issues … What I’m hearing from my constituents is what can we do to move this economy forward? Focus on the big issues, don’t focus on those issues that are politically divisive.

Michael Norton, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, believes that state coercion on this issue is not appropriate. “I don’t believe the citizens of the state of Washington, no matter how one might stand on the issue of abortion, want to feel forced into purchasing a health insurance policy that covers and includes abortion.” He noted that “[l]itigation would naturally result.”

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