Democratic members of Washington’s state legislature have introduced a bill early that would require private and public insurance companies to include abortion coverage, a measure pro-life groups plan to fight vigorously.
The bill, entitled "The Reproductive Parity Act," would require insurers who cover maternity services to also provide for abortion services.
"This bill is about ensuring that all Washington women have health insurance coverage that includes the full range of reproductive health care options, including abortion," Democratic Rep. Eileen Cody of Washington's 34th District told The Huffington Post.
"As we implement the federal health care reform law, we need to ensure that we have no erosion of our existing laws in Washington that protect women's reproductive rights," Cody added, referencing the Affordable Care Act implemented by President Barack Obama in 2010.
On March 24, 2010, President Obama signed an executive order entitled "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's Consistency with Longstanding Restrictions on the Use of Federal Funds for Abortion."
This order ensures that no federal funds will be used for abortion practices. According to Kaiser Health News, the implementation of open insurance exchanges in 2014 could result in insurance companies dropping abortion care plans.
The Affordable Care Act demands that in 2014, insurance exchanges are made available online. Individuals and small companies will be able to log onto these online marketplaces to compare insurance plans.
However, due to Obama’s executive order, insurance purchasers will be required to pay two premiums: one for insurance coverage, one for abortion coverage. In response, insurance companies may choose to drop abortion coverage if it proves cost ineffective, observers argue.
The Reproductive Parity Act would not allow insurance companies the option of dropping abortion coverage. Therefore, it would make a woman’s access to abortion practices unaffected by the Affordable Care Act’s restrictions.
Pro-life groups have voiced concern about the bill, which they say addresses a moral issue, instead of a fiscal one.
"To mandate that we violate our conscience is tyranny," Dan Kennedy, CEO of Human Life of Washington, told the Seattle Times last week. "There's no subtle or soft way to put the truth."
The Reproductive Parity Act is due to begin hearings on Thursday.