Washington state lawmakers are considering a bill that would require private insurance plans to cover abortions, placing the state squarely against the current tide of seeking to restrict abortion access and affordability. If the measure passes it would be the first mandate of its kind and a significant victory for women’s health advocates.
The proposal would extend a 20-year-old mandate that insurance plans funded or administered by the state cover abortion if they cover maternity care. The proposal is still in draft form and is a response to uncertainty surrounding the fate of federal health care reform and as the state prepares to set up its health-insurance exchange established by the Affordable Care Act.
As it stands, federal law requires state-run health-care exchanges to include at least one insurance plan that does not cover abortion. That requirement would give Washington employers or individual buyers opposed to abortion an option for insurance coverage that is in line with those beliefs while ensuring at least some plans continue to cover abortions.
In 1991 Washington voters approved Initiative 120, guaranteeing a woman’s right to abortion and requiring health-insurance programs like Medicaid that are funded or administered by the state cover the cost of the procedure. The state also has a “conscience clause” law that allows health-insurance plans sponsored by religious organizations to refuse to pay for abortions.
But at least twelve states have passed legislation restricting or banning insurance coverage of abortions since the 2010 health insurance overhaul, so this move by Washington is some much needed good news in the reproductive rights world.
Photo from Progress Ohio via flickr.