Senate Passes Bill Banning Insurance Coverage for Abortion
By Laila Khalili
Last week, the Texas Senate voted 21-10 to eliminate coverage for abortion care through insurance plans paid for through the federal health care exchange and offered through private insurance.
The bill’s author, Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), argued that its purpose is to prevent people who are against abortion from having to pay for it.
According to Sen. Taylor, women can still get abortions, “they’ll just have to come up with another means to pay for it other than having all the people across the state of Texas who buy insurance being forced to pay for something they don’t believe in or agree with.”
If abortion care is no longer available through insurance plans, it is unlikely insurance companies would offer supplemental coverage. Even if it is made available, it would be incredibly expensive, putting abortion access out of reach for those who need it most.
Sam Richardson, assistant professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, told the Dallas Morning News insurance companies would “need to price this coverage at a pretty high level because the only people that would buy it are people who think that they might want to get an abortion at some point.”
Sen. Taylor’s bill would allow insurance companies to provide abortion care only if it would save the woman’s life or “prevent substantial impairment of a major bodily function.” Risks to mental health would not be covered, and there are no exceptions for victims of rape or incest.
When Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) proposed an amendment to make an exception and allow insurance providers to cover abortion in cases of assault, it was voted down by Senate Republicans.
“It is wrong for the Texas Legislature to take away insurance coverage for a legal medical procedure. It is particularly disgusting that anti-choice members of the Texas Senate refused to create an exception for survivors of sexual assault and incest or for families facing the tragedy of a wanted pregnancy that has gone wrong,” said Heather Busby, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. “The Texas Legislature should not add to tragedy by forcing people in these circumstances to pay for abortions out of pocket.”
Sen. Taylor’s bill is set to be heard by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives this week, where it will most likely pass. The House has already passed a similar bill that prohibits insurance coverage for abortion in the federal health care exchange.
By removing abortion coverage from insurance plans, legislators are taking away one of the few existing options for Texans who need to access legal abortion care.
In 1976 Congress passed a legislative provision known as the Hyde Amendment, prohibiting the use of federal Medicaid funding for abortion. Henry Hyde, the Illinois Republican who proposed the amendment, said, “I certainly would like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle-class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the… Medicaid bill.”
According to the ACLU, 15 states have already passed measures prohibiting abortion coverage in federal insurance plans, and 10 states ban abortion coverage in all health plans. These bills are how legislators are ensuring no one can afford and, by extension, access abortion, just as Henry Hyde envisioned.