Gov. Greg Abbott has asked lawmakers to take another stab at prohibiting abortion coverage in private health insurance plans in Texas.
The proposed measure is one of 20 items Abbott included in his agenda for the special legislative session, which begins Tuesday. Abortion rights activists argue that if legislation is passed, it will interfere with private business and could end up limiting women’s access to legal abortions in the state.
Lawmakers have proposed prohibiting private insurance coverage of abortions in every session since the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, was passed.
At first, Republicans wanted to prohibit coverage in health plans sold on the Obamacare insurance exchange, but through the years, they wrote legislation that was even stricter.
“This is a bill which simply requires that the insurance plans on the Affordable Care Act exchange, private insurance plans and insurance plans that are provided by the State of Texas and other governments do not fund abortions in a mandatory manner,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life.
Pojman argued anyone who pays insurance premiums is paying into a system that covers other people’s abortions.
“This is about the State of Texas protecting individuals from having to fund abortions for someone else through their health insurance premiums,” he said.
Blake Rocap, legislative counsel with NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said he doesn’t think the state should interfere in coverage within private insurance plans.
“That’s so much broader and interferes in a private business relationship that the state has no interest in,” he said. “They don’t fund any of it. … They're not involved in providing any of those health benefits.”
Amanda Williams, executive director of the Lilith Fund – a group that helps low-income women pay for abortions – said she's concerned the measure would mean only women who could afford to pay for abortions themselves would be able to have them.
“Ultimately, the funds you have in your pocket can mean your ability to choose,” Amanda Williams said. “That’s really huge. That has a lot of implications for women and families everywhere in Texas.”
But Pojman said proposals in the past have given women an option to still get abortion care coverage.
“The individuals who want to have abortion coverage in their plan could purchase a rider to include abortion coverage,” he said.
While that's true, Rocap said, past bills have allowed the state to regulate the way insurance companies price those riders.
“It doesn’t allow insurance companies to appropriately price how much that costs,” he said. “So, it’s also a giveaway to the health insurance companies.”
Republican state Sen. Brandon Creighton and Republican state Rep. John Smithee have been tapped to sponsor the legislation during the special session.