Lawmakers OK insurance limits on abortions
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 it could force some women to make heart-wrenching choices 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 Sunday 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.
The bill passed the Texas House earlier last week. Both Creighton and its House sponsor, Republican Rep. John Smithee, 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, a Republican from Amarillo, said during House debate.
Outnumbered Democrats 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.
Sen. Sylvia Garcia, a Houston Democrat, said that the bill would effectively require women to buy “rape insurance.” She tried to include exceptions for rape and incest but failed on a 20-10 vote.