Texas Se­nate ad­vances abor­tion-cov­er­age bill

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - WILL WEIS­SERT AND DAVID CRARY

AUSTIN, Texas — The Repub­li­can-con­trolled Texas Se­nate backed a plan Sat­ur­day night to re­strict in­sur­ance cov­er­age for abor­tions, over the ob­jec­tions of op­po­nents who ex­pressed con­cern be­cause no ex­cep­tions will be made in cases of rape and in­cest.

The 20-10 party-line vote for pre­lim­i­nary ap­proval re­quires women to pur­chase ex­tra in­sur­ance to cover abor­tions ex­cept amid med­i­cal emer­gen­cies. A fi­nal vote to­day will see the mea­sure clear the cham­ber, mean­ing it’s now on a fast track to Gov. Greg Ab­bott, who is ex­pected to sign it into law.

Leg­is­la­tors de­bated other bills lim­it­ing in­sur­ance cov­er­age for abor­tion dur­ing Texas’ reg­u­lar ses­sion that ended in May, but Ab­bott called a spe­cial ses­sion and re­vived the is­sue.

Ten states al­ready have laws re­strict­ing in­sur­ance cov­er­age of abor­tion in all pri­vate in­sur­ance plans: Idaho, In­di­ana, Kansas, Ken­tucky, Michi­gan, Mis­souri, Ne­braska, North Dakota, Ok­la­homa and Utah. All make ex­cep­tions if the mother’s life is en­dan­gered; only In­di­ana and Utah also make ex­cep­tions for rape and in­cest.

“Texas must take steps to pro­hibit tax­payer and pre­mium dol­lars from sub­si­diz­ing abor­tions that are not med­i­cally nec­es­sary,” said Sen. Bran­don Creighton, a Repub­li­can from Con­roe, near Hous­ton.

The bill also passed the Texas House last week. Both Creighton and its House spon­sor, Rep. John Smithee, R-Amar­illo, said the rules only ap­ply to “elec­tive” abor­tions and pro­mote “eco­nomic free­dom” by not forc­ing Texas pol­i­cy­hold­ers who ob­ject to the pro­ce­dure to help pay for in­sur­ance cov­er­age for women un­der­go­ing it.

“What we’re say­ing here is: If you want to buy this cov­er­age, you can buy it,” Smithee said dur­ing House de­bate.

Out­num­bered Democrats in both cham­bers dis­missed the bill as purely po­lit­i­cal, ar­gu­ing that in­sur­ance com­pa­nies al­ready cover only med­i­cally nec­es­sary abor­tions. They also said the law will re­quire pur­chas­ing in­sur­ance plans that in­sur­ers won’t ac­tu­ally of­fer be­cause too few women will buy them, not know­ing in ad­vance that they will be un­der­go­ing abor­tions.

Sen. Sylvia Garc i a , D- Hous­ton, said Sat­ur­day night that the bill would ef­fec­tively re­quire women to buy “rape in­sur­ance.” She tried to in­clude ex­cep­tions for rape and in­cest, but failed.

“No woman plans to have an abor­tion and cer­tainly no woman can plan to be raped, no woman can plan to be at­tacked by some­one she knows in her own fam­ily,” Gar­cia said. “Those are the most heinous of the heinous crimes.”

Nancy Northup, pres­i­dent of the New York-based Cen­ter for Re­pro­duc­tive Rights, said the bans are “a shock­ing in­fringe­ment” on women’s right to opt for pri­vate in­sur­ance to cover a le­gal med­i­cal pro­ce­dure.

Texas ap­proved some of the na­tion’s strictest lim­its on abor­tion in 2013, but those were mostly struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last sum­mer. Still, abor­tion clin­ics around the state have closed and the num­ber of abor­tions per­formed in the coun­try’s sec­ond most pop­u­lous state has fallen from more than 82,000 in 2006 to around 54,300 in 2015.

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