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Washington House Passes Bill Requiring Insurers Who Cover Maternity Care to Cover Abortions

Teddy Wilson

If the Reproductive Parity Act is signed into law, the state would be the first in the nation to mandate that private health insurance plans cover abortion.

For the third year in a row, the Washington House of Representatives has passed the Reproductive Parity Act (RPA), which would require all health insurance plans in the state that cover maternity care to also cover abortion services. If the bill is signed into law, the state would be the first in the nation to mandate that private health insurance plans cover abortion.

Sponsored by Rep. Eileen Cody (D-West Seattle), HB 2148 was passed by a 54-44 vote Wednesday, mostly along party lines. Two Democrats voted against and one Republican vote for the legislation. 

Cody told the Associated Press that while the choice to terminate a pregnancy belongs to an individual, “it should not be made by your employer or a health-insurance company.” Meanwhile, opponents argued that mandating covering abortion would infringe on the personal beliefs of business owners who object to the procedure. 

The legislation now moves to the senate, where a Republican opposition prevented passage of a similar bill during the last legislative session. A coalition of 24 Republicans and two Democrats currently controls the senate. Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens) introduced the senate version of the bill, SB 6359.

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Proponents of the legislation have said that it is needed now more than ever in response to some health insurance companies dropping coverage of abortion due to confusion caused by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement that reproductive health-care decisions can be made even more difficult without insurance coverage of abortion, “especially for those American women who are already struggling to make ends meet.”

Earlier in the week, the Seattle Times reported that more than 250 reproductive rights activists rallied at the capitol calling for passage of the bill. Hobbs, the sponsor of the senate bill, told the crowd, “It’s a choice, not just for the women in Washington state. It’s a choice [for lawmakers] to do the right thing.”

Elaine Rose, CEO of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, said in a statement, “Simply put, Rodney Tom and the Majority Coalition Caucus have run out of excuses. The RPA must come to the Senate floor for a vote.”

SB 6359, which currently has 21 co-sponsors, has been referred to the Senate Health Care Committee, but is not currently scheduled for a hearing.

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