Wash. Abortion Coverage Parity Bill Set for Senate Vote

March 2, 2012 — A Washington bill (HB 2330) that would require health plans that cover maternity care to also cover abortion care is poised to clear its final legislative hurdle, with support strengthened by the addition of two amendments, Kaiser Health News' "Capsules" reports. The bill has cleared the full House, as well as a Senate committee. It likely will pass the full Senate in the coming days, and Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) is expected to sign it.

Since its introduction in January, the Reproductive Parity Act was amended to include an exemption for insurers that have a religious or moral objection to abortion coverage. Melanie Smith, a lobbyist with NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, said the amendment was added to affirm insurers' ability to opt out and was not a response to the national debate over religion and contraceptive coverage.

A second amendment was added last month to clarify that federal law would continue to take precedence over state requirements. Specifically, the amendment aimed to ensure that the bill, if enacted, would not come into conflict with health reform law, which allows insurers to refuse to provide abortion coverage.

The addition of the amendment did not satisfy some critics of the bill, including six members of Congress who sent a letter to President Obama claiming that the bill would "be a direct violation of federal law" and, therefore, jeopardize federal funding to the state.

Smith said the bill's language should address those concerns. She added that neither of the two amendments changed the primary purpose of the bill, which is to ensure abortion coverage in Washington (Torres, "Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 2/29).