February 26, 2013 — The Washington House on Friday passed a measure (HB 1044) that would require health plans that cover maternity care to also cover abortion services, the Spokane Spokesman-Review reports. The bill includes limited exceptions for religiously affiliated organizations, but the exceptions do not generally extend to private employers with religious objections to abortion, according to the Spokesman-Review (Camden, Spokane Spokesman-Review, 2/23).
Opponents of the legislation argue it is unnecessary because most insurers in the state already cover abortion. They also claim the bill could risk federal health care funds by violating federal law on abortion funding and contend that an abortion coverage requirement would infringe on the religious beliefs of those who opposes it.
Supporters counter that the law is needed to ensure abortion coverage remains available after provisions of the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) take effect in 2014. They also note that the bill includes a provision to make moot any federally inconsistent language (Kaminsky, AP/KATU, 2/23.) State Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D) said the bill would ensure that rape survivors and other women seeking abortions will have the insurance to pay for it without being restricted by the religious beliefs of an employer (Spokane Spokesman-Review, 2/23).
The House passed the measure in a 53-43 vote mostly along party lines, with all but two Democrats favoring the measure and all Republicans except one opposing it. It now goes to the Republican-dominated Senate Health Care Committee for consideration (AP/KATU, 2/23). Although the committee declined to vote on two similar bills in the past, Committee Chair Randi Becker (R) promised last week that the bill would receive a hearing if it passed the House (Spokane Spokesman-Review, 2/23).
According to the AP/KATU, the bill will face a "contentious reckoning" in the Republican-led Senate if it reaches the floor, although supporters believe they have enough votes to pass the measure.
Gov. Jay Inslee (D) in a statement commended the House for passing the measure and urged the Senate to give it a floor vote (AP/KATU, 2/23).