Washington Bill Forcing Insurance to Pay for Abortions Gets Hearing

State   Steven Ertelt   Apr 1, 2013   |   1:52PM    Olympia, WA

A bill in the Washington state legislature that would force insurance companies to pay for abortions is getting a hearing today, and pro-life advocates are on hand to try to stop it.

Americans United for Life Staff Counsel Mary Harned is presenting written testimony before the Washington Senate Health Care Committee today in opposition to the Reproductive Parity Act, legislation that would force health insurance companies to offer coverage for elective abortions and will threaten freedom of conscience in the state.

AUL president Charmaine Yoest talked about the problems with the bill in an email to LifeNews.

“The Reproductive Parity Act is the abortion industry’s latest attack on First Amendment Freedom of Conscience rights.  Clearly, Big Abortion’s agenda has effectively moved from ‘choice’ to coercion as they focus their legislative efforts on forcing Americans – including those in the health insurance industry – to acquiesce to their radical agenda or face severe consequences,” she explained.

AUL says the Reproductive Parity Act, House Bill 1044, would create an unprecedented requirement in the State of Washington that all health plans that provide “coverage for maternity care or services must also provide a covered person with substantially equivalent coverage to permit the voluntary termination of a pregnancy.”  While the bill’s proponents claim to protect freedom of conscience, the bill in fact fails to provide adequate conscience protections, particularly for insurance carriers.

“Washington state efforts to force abortion coverage on private businesses is in marked contrast to the current trends across the country,” Yoest added.

Americans United for Life says 21 states have restrictions on private insurance coverage of abortion in either all health insurance plans within their state or in the plans that will participate in their new state exchanges required by Obamacare. But the Washington bill is far more coercive than state statutes requiring taxpayer funding for abortion. HB1044 actually targets private health plans and forces nearly all healthcare payers in the state of Washington to pay for abortion-on-demand not only through tax-dollars, but through their insurance premiums.

Yoest said First Amendment conscience rights are also under attack in the bill.  A health carrier that objects to paying for abortions because it would violate conscience or religious beliefs must still aid someone in obtaining an abortion. Only “religiously sponsored” health carriers are exempted.

Joseph Backholm of the Family Policy Institute has also talked about the problems with the measure.

“The need for this bill is highly questionable because every insurance company in Washington currently offers abortion coverage,” he explained. “While providing additional benefits to no one, the bill simply takes away purchasing options from those who prefer not to subsidize abortion with their premiums.”

Abortion backers claim the bill doesn’t post any conscience issues for Washington residents, but the pro-life advocate disagrees.

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Backholm continued: “However, the State of Washington, in the case Storman v. Selecky, argued for years that those same state laws protecting conscience rights still allow the state to force pharmacists to sell drugs that cause abortions in violation of their conscience. If they believe current conscience protections allow them to tell businesses what products they must sell, their willingness to extend those same conscience rights in this context shouldn’t be much comfort.

ACTION: To oppose the bill, Washington state residents are urged to call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 or email lawmakers here. To read Harned’s complete testimony, click here.