Ben Johnson

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Bill forcing insurance companies to pay for abortions dies in Washington

Ben Johnson

OLYMPIA, April 2, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-lifers achieved an uncharacteristic victory in the state of Washington on Monday, as a dedicated group of legislators killed a bill that would force any insurance company that offers prenatal coverage to also pay for elective abortion.

The Reproductive Parity Act, H.B. 1044, mandated that insurance companies providing “coverage for maternity care or services must also provide a covered person with substantially equivalent coverage to permit the voluntary termination of a pregnancy.”

The Senate Health Care Committee held a two-hour hearing on the bill on Monday. Afterwards the committee chairman, Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, announced it would not be brought up for a vote.

“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,” she said. 

Democratic State Senators Jim Hargrove and Tim Sheldon joined Republicans to prevent the bill from moving forward.

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If approved by committee, the bill almost certainly would have become law. A bare majority, 25 of the senate's 49 members, signed a letter made public on Monday, supporting the bill due to fears that, under ObamaCare, the state might “move backwards” and not provide women “just and equal access to the pregnancy decisions that are right for them.”

The House passed the act by a vote of 53-43, and Democratic Governor Jay Inslee had promised to sign.

Critics charge that the bill would violate the consciences of pro-life health providers. The bill contained a “conscience clause” that critics said was written in overly vague language and applied only to “religiously sponsored” health carriers. Even they had to provide written information on how to obtain an abortion, thus participating in the abortion indirectly.

Angela Connelly, president of the Washington Women’s Network, said, “This is a bullying bill.”

Americans United for Life Staff Counsel Mary Harned testified against the bill in writing, saying it has “insufficient conscience protections to ensure that individuals with religious, ethical, or moral objections to abortion do not have to contribute to the provision of abortion.”

“This bill is far more coercive than state statutes requiring taxpayer funding for abortion,” Harned wrote. “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.”

AUL President and CEO Charmaine Yoest agreed, “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.”

The defeat was a substantial setback for the state's pro-abortion community. Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington lobbied heavily for the bill.

An Elway survey, commissioned by the Family Policy Institute of Washington and Human Life of Washington, found that the vast majority of Washingtonians had no opinion whatsoever on the measure. Of those familiar with the bill, twice as many opposed it as supported it (15 percent to 8 percent).

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

Most states ban public health insurance from covering abortion, and 21 states bar private insurance coverage of abortion.

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