Washington Considers Reproductive Parity Act Bill

Welcome to WashingtonThere are two bills that have been introduced to the legislature in the state of Washington. Together, the two are called the Reproductive Parity Act. The purpose of the bills is to help women maintain their current health insurance coverage when the state health insurance exchange opens in October of 2013.

First, a little history. An earlier version of the bills that are collectively being called the Reproductive Parity Act passed the Washington House of Representatives in early 2012.

The bill was called HB2330. The Washington Senate decided to vote against the possibility of hearing about, and then officially voting on, this bill. They didn’t vote no – they simply chose to not have a vote. Bill HB2330 would have ensured that women had continued access to abortion coverage once the federal health insurance exchanges were enacted in 2014.

Today, there are two bills that are together called the Reproductive Parity Act. Senate Bill 5009 is sponsored by Senator Steve Hobbs, (D-44th District, Lake Stevens). It has 22 co-signers. One of the co-signers is Christine Rolfes (D-23rd District, Bainbridge Island). One of the primary sponsors of House Bill 1044 is Representative Eileen Cody (D-34th District, Seattle). The bill has 41 co-sponsors.

The Reproductive Parity Act bills, if voted into law, would require any health insurance plan in Washington state that covers maternal care to also cover abortions. It would reinforce existing state law that requires insurance companies to cover abortion except in cases in which the insurance provider is explicitly religious.

Representative Cody said:

The main reason is to insure that Washington women can continue to make their choices with their family and their doctor.

Senator Rolfes said:

It’s imperative that we create this protection for women in order to ensure their constitutional right of choice and more importantly, for their health. We have seen in some states an erosion of women’s health and choice and what we want to ensure is that there’s a firewall against that erosion.

It is worth pointing out that federal funds cannot be used for abortions. Women would have to pay their insurers separately for abortion coverage. This is obviously going to be difficult for women who are low-income. The Reproductive Parity Act is to prevent the need for a separate abortion health-insurance payment. It would make all women’s health care equally accessible no matter the income level of the women who receives it.

Opponents of the bill include Joseph Backholem the director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington. He feels that the Reproductive Parity Act “denies the rights of individuals” who object to funding abortions.

It seems that solution to this issue is written into the bills. Those who object to funding abortions can choose to purchase health insurance from an explicitly religious insurance company (that would be exempt from the requirement).

Image by Cyndy Sims Parr on Flickr