This month, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed HB 1009, requiring that any “accredited institution of higher learning” in that state which provides “coverage for maternity care or services” in its health insurance plan for undergraduate or graduate students will now also have to cover abortion.
At the bill’s signing, Governor Inslee stated, “Reproductive health services should be available to all individuals, regardless of their insurance plan, and this is especially true of young adults. This is a great win for reproductive access.”
The College Fix reported that the new law’s sponsors and supporters justified the bill as closing a loophole from the state’s 2018 Reproductive Parity Act which is currently under litigation, and which mandated that state-run health insurance plans that offered maternity services also had to provide abortion coverage. What was not acknowledged is the fact that abortion is very different from maternity services, as it requires the intentional destruction of a human life rather versus provision of normal medical care to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy.
Religiously-affiliated schools were exempted from the abortion coverage mandate, but Republican State Senator Mike Padden told The College Fix that the bill still represents an attack on religious freedom, calling the bill “just another attempt to force insurance providers to cover abortions regardless of the religious, social or other objections of institutions and individuals.” No explanation is given in the bill addressing the conscientious objection rights of Christian or other employees of the schools subject to the mandate.
Opponents of the bill, including representatives from Students for Life and the Washington State Catholic Conference, decried the assumption that women cannot be both successful students and parents, which was implicit in the legislation and explicit in the testimony of those who supported it. The groups further denounced forcing students to fund other students’ abortion services through their health fees.
Washington State is not known for its pro-life policies. The Department of Health’s own website refers citizens directly to Planned Parenthood, and provides factually inaccurate information about abortions, stating that an aspiration or suction abortion “uses gentle suction to remove the pregnancy,” when in fact the suction machine has a force 10-20 times greater than that of a vacuum cleaner. There is no mention of side effects anywhere on the page.
Several years ago, Students for Life launched its Pregnant on Campus initiative. The results of the group’s research into the resources available to pregnant and parenting students on the average college campus, specifically in the areas of “Title IX compliance, housing access, on-campus resources, financial assistance, and medical attention,” were not particularly reassuring.
While SFLA learned that one in five undergraduate students were parenting, these students often lacked basic information from their schools about the resources available to them, such as government assistance with paying for childcare expenses. Many schools also failed to provide on-campus family housing options or childcare services that make pregnant and parenting students’ academic success more likely. Fortunately, groups like Project Rosie in Michigan as well as Feminists for Life and Students for Life of America are working to connect students with the resources that they need.
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