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In Washington State, a Proposed Mandate for Abortion Coverage, Whoever the Insurer

| January 18, 2012

heathens oskar kokoshka 1918

Detail from Oskar Kokoshka's 'The Heathens' (oil on canvas, 1918).

“Personhood” has dominated the abortion debate in recent months, highlighted by the failure of a high-profile constitutional amendment in Mississippi. And while abortion rights advocates in several states continue to defend against  other bills that would define an embryo or fetus as a person, advocates in Washington state are taking the offensive.

Democratic members of the state legislature, where both House and Senate are controlled by Democrats, introduced a bill earlier this month that would maintain or expand abortion coverage. The “Reproductive Parity Act,” set for its first hearings on Thursday, would require private and public insurers that provide maternity coverage to cover abortion services as well. If passed, the law would be the first of its kind in the nation.

“This is Washington’s way of saying [abortion services] are basic health care coverage,” said Sara Kiesler, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, which is part of the coalition pushing the bill.

Melanie Smith, a lobbyist with NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, said advocates are concerned less about personhood initiatives than about abortion restrictions stemming from the 2010 federal health law.

In 2014, states will be required under that law to open insurance exchanges — online marketplaces for individuals and small businesses to compare and purchase plans. These exchanges, however, have several restrictions, including a prohibition against using federal funds for abortions. Smith said those purchasing coverage will have to pay two separate premiums: one for abortion services — based on their actual cost, estimated by the insurer — and one for everything else under the plan. Federal subsidies can be applied only to the latter.

According to Smith, this presents a problem: Consumers might select against plans that offer abortion coverage, and if demand is low for the extra coverage, insurers could find it cost-prohibitive to continue offering coverage for abortion services.  All individual and small-group plans in the state currently cover abortion, said Stephanie Marquis, a spokeswoman for Washington’s insurance commissioner; information about larger, employer-based plans is unavailable. Smith added that all insurance carriers in the state offer at least one plan with abortion coverage. The bill, then, “is about maintaining access the way we have it now.”

In contrast, many states have used the health law’s implementation to restrict abortion rights, said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager with the Guttmacher Institute. As of Jan. 1, 15 states had put in place restrictions on abortion coverage for plans that will be offered on exchanges; five of those states will allow coverage with a separate payment.

Advocates are “pretty confident” the Washington bill could become law and buck the trend, said Lisa Stone, executive director of Legal Voice, a nonprofit focused on women’s rights in the Northwest. Washington state voters have voted for abortion rights several times, Stone added, and she expects the state legislature will follow voter sentiment.

Those who oppose abortion rights, however, will likely put up a fight. Dan Kennedy, CEO of Human Life of Washington – an affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee – told the Seattle Times, “To mandate that we violate our conscience is tyranny. There’s no subtle or soft way to put the truth.”

Whether other states take up similar legislation will depend largely on changes in legislative makeup during the upcoming election, said Tait Sye, a spokesperson for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The national organization will be watching the Washington bill closely.

In New York,  state Assemblymember Deborah Glick has introduced a bill several times that would require abortion coverage, but it has made it out of committee only once. Glick reintroduced the bill this month, and while she was unaware of the effort in Washington, she said that the idea may now become more salient as states set up insurance exchanges.

–Kaiser Health News

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11 Responses for “In Washington State, a Proposed Mandate for Abortion Coverage, Whoever the Insurer”

  1. Art Araya via Facebook says:

    hate it. what if the “fetus” is actually a person? then abortion is murder. some of us actually believe this to be the case. to force us to pay for this “service” against our consciences is unacceptable.

  2. Barbara Mac Donald Kimberley via Facebook says:

    Saddest thing I ever heard of. Who will protect these little people?

  3. Prescient33 says:

    There must be something in the water in our Northwest that eats away the logical process of its citizens, particularly those of the “progressive” persuasion. The failure to recognize that the unborn are persons, not things, is to deny the evidence before their own eyes in what is visible in ultrasound to all but the ideologically blind.
    This is but another example of the “tyranny of a majority,” trampling on the rights of all who hold opposing views.

  4. Jess Caddell via Facebook says:

    so this is gonna start an argument, but I have to say it. I personally do not believe that ANYONE has the right to tall someone that they can not have an abortion. We do not know the circumstances that the “FETUS” came to be. What if the mother was rapped and the fetus was the result. Should we tell the woman she has to carry it full term. NO we can not. It is her choice. Or what if a family becomes pregnant and all testing is done and they find out they are carrying a fetus that is not gonna be normal. Back in the day we had no why of knowing this until the baby was born. We have no right to tell that family that they have to deliver the fetus. What happens in 20 or 30 years when that family can’t care for there child anymore cause of health issues, or death. It is pretty expensive to put them in a home and 99% of the extended family wont want said child. i think they have the right to an abortion. There are a lot of reasons that they might want to abort the fetus, and we have no right to tell them they can’t do what they want. However i do not think it should be used as a form of birth control. In example, the young girls that use no protection and have abortion after abortion, well that’s a no go for me. Think what u want of me personally i could care less.

    • Layla says:

      Good comments, Jess. However, don’t expect me to pay for it or my doctor to perform it against his will.

      These are human beings we are allowing to be slaughtered. Millions of them. People hate war but have no problem with the free choice genocide going on here.

      They must be perfect or they cannot be born? I wonder if we will ever take responsibility for our own actions?

  5. Shawn Taylor via Facebook says:

    No one has the right to tell me I have to pay for it either…ur life ur body u pay for it! Period

  6. Anonymous says:

    Learn the dark truth about the history of American eugenics and its successor, legalized abortion.

    Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger in her own words:

  7. The Dred Scott decision said the same thing about African Americans that Roe vs.Wade said about the unborn and that is that they were not persons but rather property and therefore not entitled to the rights or protection of persons. We must overturn Roe just like slavery was overturned as a great injustice. The justices also said that they didn’t know whether the fetus was human. They apparently all flunked elementary science if they can’t figure that out.

  8. Janet says:

    Personhood. Who decides who is a person and who is not.? This is political rhetoric and an attempt to deny the humanity of the unborn. Please take note that all the groups pushing this bill will gain financially from this bill. Planned Parenthood is getting so much of our tax money already for their slaughter of the unborn and promoting sex outside of marriage which builds up their business. They are selling illicit sex to minors and corrupting their morals.

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