Nebraska Lawmakers Seek to Deny Private Insurance Coverage of Abortion Care

Amie Newman

A Nebraska legislator is hoping to make it illegal for private insurance companies to offer coverage of abortion to the women of his state.

Nebraska State Senator Beau McCoy wants to make it illegal for private health insurance providers to offer plans regulated by the state to pay for (legal) abortion care. Under the Nelson Amendment in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, this type of legislation is becoming more common on a state-by-state basis. McCoy is clearly emboldened by a rash of anti-choice bills he’s sponsored from prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks to requiring a government-sanctioned abortion “screening” (which passed only to be blocked by a federal judge) in his ongoing battle against women and families.

McCoy is proposing a law which would not only block insurance coverage of abortion in plans sold under Nebraska’s yet-to-be created state health exchange but also block private insurance companies from providing abortion coverage, outside of the state exchanges. The only exception? When a woman’s life is endangered by the pregnancy. His colleague, Senator Annette Dubas, has proposed a simliar bill which would prevent insurance coverage of legal abortion within the state insurance exchange plans only. She’s also said there will be an exception for a woman’s life.

Am I misunderstanding something? How does a woman (and her family) purchase insurance coverage criminalized under state law in advance of her life being endangered by the pregnancy?

According to the Omaha World-Herald,

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“Nebraskans who find abortion morally reprehensible should not be forced to pay for abortions through their insurance premiums,” McCoy said.

Under this reasoning, when a vegetarian visits a grocery store to purchase vegetables, it’s “morally reprehensible” that they are giving money to a store that also sells meat. Why not pass a law barring grocery stores from selling meat? Why not pass a law which allows Americans to opt-out of “being forced” to pay taxes to a government that provides tax breaks to Catholic Churches which help advocate for legislation which stomps on many other Americans’ rights? Why not opt-out of paying taxes which go towards paying for wars with which many disagree? Is this really the way McCoy thinks our country functions best?

McCoy’s bill would only apply to those insurance plans regulated by the state, not “self-insured group plans,” notes the Omaha World-Herald.

Currently, under the health reform law, health plans available through the insurance exchange could include abortion coverage.

However, as Jodi Jacobson writes in a through run-down of the Nelson Amendment’s “Dos and Don’ts,” policy holders who participate in the health care exhanges must send “separate checks” if they want supplemental abortion coverage so as not to, essentially, “taint” the pool of insurance-holder purity.

Unfortunately, according to the Omaha World-Herald, “…few [Nebraska insurance] companies offer such coverage.”

And Kyle Carlson, legal director for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, says that if a private insurance company chooses to offer abortion coverage, the state should not stand in the way.

“What this policy does is inherently unfair,” he said, because it means women who need subsidized health insurance could not get abortion coverage.”

If Nebraska State Sen. Beau McCoy gets his wish, Nebraska women will have almost no access to their constitutional right to access legal abortion care.

News Politics

Tim Kaine Changes Position on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back the Hyde Amendment's ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate, has promised to stand with nominee Hillary Clinton in opposing the Hyde Amendment, a ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that Kaine “has said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment,” according to the network’s transcript.

“Voters can be 100 percent confident that Tim Kaine is going to fight to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Mook said.

The commitment to opposing Hyde was “made privately,” Clinton spokesperson Jesse Ferguson later clarified to CNN’s Edward Mejia Davis.

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Kaine’s stated support for ending the federal ban on abortion funding is a reversal on the issue for the Virginia senator. Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard  that he had not “been informed” that this year’s Democratic Party platform included a call for repealing the Hyde Amendment. He said he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Repealing the Hyde Amendment has been an issue for Democrats on the campaign trail this election cycle. Speaking at a campaign rally in New Hampshire in January, Clinton denounced Hyde, noting that it made it “harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.”

Clinton called the federal ban on abortion funding “hard to justify” when asked about it later that month at the Brown and Black Presidential Forum, adding that “the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.”

Clinton’s campaign told Rewire during her 2008 run for president that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

The Democratic Party on Monday codified its commitment to opposing Hyde, as well as the Helms Amendment’s ban on foreign assistance funds being used for abortion care. 

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back Hyde’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

When asked about whether the president supported the repeal of Hyde during the White House press briefing Tuesday, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said he did not “believe we have changed our position on the Hyde Amendment.”

When pushed by a reporter to address if the administration is “not necessarily on board” with the Democratic platform’s call to repeal Hyde, Schultz said that the administration has “a longstanding view on this and I don’t have any changes in our position to announce today.”

News Politics

Democratic Party Platform: Repeal Bans on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

When asked this month about the platform’s opposition to Hyde, Hillary Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said that he had not “been informed of that” change to the platform though he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde Amendment.”

Democrats voted on their party platform Monday, codifying for the first time the party’s stated commitment to repealing restrictions on federal funding for abortion care.

The platform includes a call to repeal the Hyde Amendment, an appropriations ban on federal funding for abortion reimplemented on a yearly basis. The amendment disproportionately affects people of color and those with low incomes.

“We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured,” states the Democratic Party platform. “We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”

The platform also calls for an end to the Helms Amendment, which ensures that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.”

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Though Helms allows funding for abortion care in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, the Obama administration has failed to enforce those guarantees.

Despite the platform’s opposition to the restrictions on abortion care funding, it makes no mention of how the anti-choice measures would be rolled back.

Both presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have promised to address Hyde and Helms if elected. Clinton has said she would “fix the Helms Amendment.”

Speaking at the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum in January, Clinton said that the Hyde Amendment “is just hard to justify because … certainly the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.” In 2008, Clinton’s campaign told Rewire that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

When asked this month about the platform’s opposition to Hyde, Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said in an interview with the Weekly Standard that he had not “been informed of that” change to the platform though he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

“The Hyde amendment and Helms amendment have prevented countless low-income women from being able to make their own decisions about health, family, and future,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement, addressing an early draft of the platform. “These amendments have ensured that a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion is a right that’s easier to access if you have the resources to afford it. That’s wrong and stands directly in contrast with the Democratic Party’s principles, and we applaud the Party for reaffirming this in the platform.”