Wash. weighs 1st abortion insurance mandate in US

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 23, 2013 at 5:59 pm •  Published: March 23, 2013
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If passed, she said, it would amount to "the first conscience coercion act in American history."

Its passage, however, is not assured.

Proponents of the measure say they have the votes they need in the state Senate, but it's not clear that Senate leaders will allow it to get to the floor. It is scheduled to receive a public hearing in the Senate Health Care Committee on April 1.

Ironically, the man bill supporters will likely blame if it fails to get a Senate vote counts himself as a proud backer of the measure.

Sen. Rodney Tom of Medina, a fiscal conservative and social moderate, and one other like-minded Democrat crossed party lines to caucus with Republicans in December, handing a one-vote majority to the GOP. Seizing power for the first time in nearly a decade, elated Senate Republicans reciprocated by installing Tom as Majority Leader.

Last month, Tom addressed about 250 advocates rallying for the measure's passage on the state Capitol steps.

"I'm down here making sure that my 17-year-old daughter has the kind of protections that we need in Washington state and that all of our kids have those same kinds of protections," Tom said to cheers.

Moments later, Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat and fellow bill supporter, delivered a not-so-subtle challenge to Tom's political will.

Washington state "deserves a vote in the state Senate on the Reproductive Parity Act," Inslee said. "We are going to insist that we are not going to let anybody close the door to democracy in this state."

Another irony: though the bill has proved to be among the most hotly contested of the session, its broader impact if passed may be less than sweeping.

For one thing, most abortions are paid for out-of-pocket. According to the Guttmacher Institute, only 12 percent of abortions nationwide are paid for by private insurers, with 20 percent footed by Medicaid.

For another, because most abortions cost less than a live birth — the procedure typically runs about $500, though late-term abortions are far more expensive — insurers may be disinclined to stop covering them.

At present, all major insurers in Washington state cover abortions, and Cody, the bill's sponsor, said she knows of no carrier with plans to change. Insurers new to Washington state on its exchange may be tempted to adopt different policies, she said.

No matter its immediate impact, said Elizabeth Nash, states issues manager with the Guttmacher Institute, the bill's passage would be a watershed event.

"It would be a model for other states to follow," she said.

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Follow AP Writer Jonathan Kaminsky at http://www.twitter.com/jekaminsky