Women in the state will now have to purchase extra insurance to cover some abortions.
Texas will now require women to buy additional insurance policies for abortion coverage, a move activists say will have a “huge impact” on women who “need” the medical procedure.
Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed House Bill 214 into law Tuesday, banning Texas insurers from covering abortions in general plans, despite protests from Democrats that the bill should exempt pregnancies from rape or incest and fetuses with fatal medical conditions. Women who want the coverage will now have to buy a supplemental plan, if their insurer offers one, though abortions for medical emergencies will still be covered under general plans.
Although Democrats argued that insurance companies already only cover medically necessary abortions, making the new law a largely symbolic move, it will have a “huge impact” on women who “need” abortions, according to Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas.
“It will impact people who have coverage and will now be denied services,” Busby says. “So regardless of how big that number is, people who have health coverage should be able to get the services they need.”
The bill passed after intense debate in both the House and Senate, and was signed by Abbott with just one day to go in the 30-day special legislative session that began July 18. The House approved the measure 95-51 last week, and the Senate passed the bill 20-10 Sunday evening.
“As a firm believer in Texas values I am proud to sign legislation that ensures no Texan is ever required to pay for a procedure that ends the life of an unborn child,” Abbott said in a statement. “This bill prohibits insurance providers from forcing Texas policyholders to subsidize elective abortions. I am grateful to the Texas legislature for getting this bill to my desk, and working to protect innocent life this special session.”
Texas joins 25 other states that limit coverage of the medical procedure under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, though at least 13 have exceptions for rape and incest victims, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute. Ten states already prohibit private insurance coverage of abortions: Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Utah.
Busby said abortion activists were weighing their options as to whether they should challenge the law in court.
“I’m not sure what the strategy might be moving forward,” Busby says. “We already have two pending lawsuits now in Texas, so it’s just more of our tax dollars defending laws that deny people health care.”
All three abortion-related bills on the governor’s 20-item special session agenda passed in either the House or Senate. One bill also signed today will require doctors and facilities to report more information about women who have abortions, including her birth year, race, marital status and the date of her last menstrual cycle, and fine those who do not comply. The third measure would prevent local and state agencies from contracting with clinics affiliated with abortion providers, though state and federal laws already prevent taxpayer money from funding abortion procedures.
The bills’ approvals are a success for the state’s anti-abortion activists. In the regular session, the Texas Legislature passed a sweeping anti-abortion bill, just one year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law that had forced more than half of the state’s abortion clinics to close.
Rep. John Smithee, the lead author of the abortion coverage bill, said abortion opponents should not have to subsidize “elective” abortions through their insurance plans, and that the new law will ensure the “economic freedom” of Texans who oppose the procedure.
“This isn’t about who can get an abortion,” Smithee said. “It is about who is forced to pay for an abortion.”
Critics say the insurance coverage bill will disproportionately affect low-income women, and that it is unfair to require women to purchase the additional coverage when they cannot anticipate needing an abortion.
“This legislation is part of an agenda to shame, bully, and punish people seeking abortion, and we’ve seen firsthand how Texans are harmed when abortion coverage is banned,” said Amanda Williams, executive director of Texas’s Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity. “Every person should be able to make their own reproductive decisions, no matter what insurance they have or how much money is in their bank account.”
Republicans rejected several amendments that would have loosened the bill’s restrictions, including one from Rep. Chris Turner that would exempt pregnancies from rape or incest. The additional coverage plan forces women to decide whether they want what he called “rape insurance.”
“Women don’t plan to be raped. Parents don’t plan for their children to be victims of incest,” he said. “Asking a woman or a parent to foresee something like that and buy supplemental insurance to cover that horrific possibility is not only ridiculous, it is cruel.”
via source: https://www.usnews.com/