AUSTIN, TX — In their ongoing quest to make abortion in Texas prohibitive if not outright illegal, Texas conservatives controlling the state Legislature advanced a bill requiring women to pay a separate health insurance premium for coverage of non-emergency abortions.
Critics call the measure “rape insurance,” and it’s close to becoming law. The Senate last week gave initial approval to House Bill 214 toward requiring women to pay the additional premium if they choose a health plan to cover abortions outside of medical emergencies, as the Texas Tribune and numerous other media outlets reported.
The proposed law doesn’t include exceptions for instance of fetal abnormalities, incest or rape. The bill now awaiting the governor’s signature is expected to become law this week.
Passed on a 20-10 vote, the bill is among three abortion-related priorities of Gov. Greg Abbott, who called a special summer session of the Legislature in compelling lawmakers to hammer out issues that didn’t gain substantive steam during the regular session (along with a so-called “bathroom bill” to regulate which bathrooms transgender people are allowed to use).
Once the measure secures final approval in the Senate, it goes to Abbott’s desk for his signature. Another abortion-related bill requiring doctors and health care facilities to report amplified details about abortion complications to the state cleared both chambers on Friday, as the Tribune noted.
In justifying their “rape insurance” bill, Republican backers posit that abortion opponents shouldn’t have to subsidize the procedure through their own insurance plans. The bill was authored by Rep. John Smithee, a Republican from Amarillo.
Arguing the proposed law is likely to primarily affect low-income women, members of the minority Democratic party tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill to include the aforementioned exceptions of fetal abnormalities, incest or rape. Their efforts were to no avail given the commanding control of the chamber by conservative lawmakers for whom opposition to abortion is a key political plank.
The measure is the latest initiative by state Republican lawmakers that amounts to a deterrent in getting abortions in Texas. Gov. Abbott championed an earlier measure that will require the burial or cremation of fetal tissue in lieu of sanitary disposal (at considerable financial cost to women).
Texas also tried passing a stringent (many say draconian) set of requirements for abortion providers in Texas that would’ve led to the closure of three-quarters of the state’s remaining women’s health clinics offering abortions among their services. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately struck down the most restrictive parts of the Texas law pertaining to women’s health clinics in June 2016 ruling.
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Originally published August 13, 2017.