The 2013 legislative session in Washington state is looking at lot like the 2012 one, at least when it comes to a bill that would require all insurance plans offered in the state to cover abortions if they cover prenatal care. The chair of the state senate committee hearing the bill has announce she will not let it go to the senate for a vote.
“The fact is that at this point, House Bill 1044 [the Reproductive Parity Act] is a solution in search of a problem,” said Sen. Randi Becker (R-Eatonville), according to the Spokesman Review. “Even advocates of the bill admit that there is no need for the bill today as every health insurer in the state of Washington provides for abortion coverage.”
The problem, according to reproductive rights activists, is that insurers could conceivably stop covering abortions in their plans under new exchanges provided by the Affordable Care Act. In that case, Washington, which is known for its dedication to abortion access, would be left with fewer quality abortion care options. Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, the advocacy arm for Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, released the following statement: “[T]his bill would ensure that women—not politicians, nor bosses—make their own private medical decisions. At a time when states like North Dakota and Arkansas are passing the most restrictive laws attacking safe and legal abortion in the country, Washington State could do the right thing for women and ensure that insurance coverage for all of a woman’s pregnancy options remains the same as health care reform moves forward.”
A small but vocal band of anti-choice activists in the state have for years rallied against abortions paid for by insurance coverage, especially the state Medicaid program. They construe this as a “co-mingling” of local and federal support and claim it is a violation of the Hyde Amendment. This could easily morph into a larger anti-choice crusade, depending on state insurance coverage choices made as a part of the Affordable Care Act. The Reproductive Parity Act would have reinforced state residents’ belief that all women should have the right to choose, regardless of their economic means. Had the bill made it to the senate for a vote, supporters say they would have had the votes to pass it.
An bill that was to the Reproductive Parity Act stalled in the state senate last year when it was held hostage in a fiscal “austerity budget” showdown.