“Reproductive Parity Act” appears stalled in Washington State for second year in a row

By Dave Andrusko

Washington State Sen. Randi Becker, chairwoman of the Senate Health Care Committee.

Washington State Sen. Randi Becker, chairwoman of the Senate Health Care Committee.

The bill that would make Washington the first state to require insurers that cover maternity care (which all must do) to also pay for abortions has stalled for the second year in a row.

“The fact is that at this point, House Bill 1044 [the Reproductive Parity Act] is a solution in search of a problem,” Sen. Randi Becker, chairwoman of the Senate Health Care Committee, said in a statement four hours after Monday’s hearing.  “Even advocates of the bill admit that there is no need for the bill today as every health insurer in the state of Washington provides for abortion coverage.”

After hearing from numerous supporters and opponents over the course of two hours, Becker said she will not schedule a vote on the bill. Absent some parliamentary procedure maneuver, the Reproductive Parity Act appears dead for this year.

In February the House passed the measure by a 53-43 vote. Senator Steve Hobbs (D), a sponsor of the bill, “told the committee Monday he had 25 signatures [out of 49] on a letter saying they would vote for it if it came to the Senate floor,” The Spokesman reported. “That would be enough to pass it and send it to Gov. Jay Inslee, who has said he would sign it.”

In addition to arguing that the bill was unnecessary because all health insurance companies offer abortion coverage, opponents also dismissed conscience protections as both vague and contradicted with other language that says an employee cannot be denied abortion coverage.

Moreover, as Kirk Johnson wrote in the New York Times, “Opponents said the bill would require a provision of health insurance coverage — paying for abortions — that many people do not want and do not want to be part of, even by doing business with a company that provides it.”

In the pro-abortion world where abortion and live birth are merely alternative and equally valid ways to culminate a pregnancy, this is dubbed ‘reproductive parity.’ According to Mary Spaulding Balch, JD, director of NRLC’s Department of State Legislation, the only other state considering similar rules is New York.

This is turning the ‘opt-out’ provision of ObamaCare on its head.

One of the few good pieces of news in 2012 was how many states took advantage of the “opt-out” provision of ObamaCare. As you recall, ObamaCare requires the States to operate and maintain “health insurance exchanges” where individuals can shop around for health insurance plans. But ObamaCare also gave each state the right to prohibit coverage of abortions under the qualified health plans offered through the exchanges.

Washington State is trying just the opposite with its Reproductive Parity Act: to pass legislation affirming that the plans offered in these exchanges must cover abortions.

“The United States Supreme Court has clearly recognized the right of a state to favor childbirth over abortion in its public funding,” said Spaulding Balch. “This is, in part, because, in the words of the Court, [a]bortion is inherently different from other medical procedures, because no other procedure involves the purposeful termination of a potential life.’”

She added, “Those who want to force insurance companies to pay for abortion coverage by equating abortion with childbirth are misunderstanding that there is a difference between life and death.”