Texas to restrict abortion coverage
AUSTIN, TEXAS» The Republican-controlled Texas Legislature voted Saturday night to restrict insurance coverage for abortions over the objections of opponents who say doing so could force some women to make heart-wrenching choices because no exceptions will be made in cases of rape and incest.
The state Senate approved 20-10 a bill requiring women to purchase extra insurance to cover abortions except amid medical emergencies.
A final, largely formulaic vote soon will send the measure to Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign it into law. They had already cleared the state House after hours of emotional debate.
State lawmakers debated other bills limiting insurance coverage for abortion during Texas’ regular legislative session that ended in May, but Abbott called a special session.
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.
The measure’s House sponsor, Republican Rep. John Smithee, said it applies only to “elective” abortions and promotes “economic freedom” by not forcing Texas policyholders who object to abortion to “subsidize” insurance coverage for women undergoing the procedure.
“What we’re saying here is: If you want to buy this coverage, you can buy it,” said Smithee, a Republican from Amarillo.
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 women to purchase 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.
Rep. Chris Turner, head of the House Democratic Caucus, said the bill would effectively require women to buy “rape insurance.”