Law­mak­ers OK in­sur­ance lim­its on abor­tions

San Francisco Chronicle - - NATION - By Will Weissert and David Crary Will Weissert and David Crary are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

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.

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