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Indiana Governor Signs Abortion Insurance Coverage Ban

Emily Crockett

Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed a ban on private insurance coverage of most abortion care in the state, as well as a watered-down version of a bill that pro-choice advocates earlier feared could lead to harassment of doctors.

Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed a ban on private insurance coverage of most abortion care in the state last week.

HB 1123 makes Indiana the tenth state to ban private insurance coverage of abortion. It allows the purchase of a separate “rider” at additional cost to cover abortion care, although as seen recently in Michigan, there is no guarantee that such riders will be available to all who may wish to purchase them.

The new law includes exceptions for rape, incest, and threats to the life or “major bodily function” of the pregnant woman, but does not include an exception for fetal anomalies or mental health issues. Michigan’s law came under fire from opponents for requiring women to buy “rape insurance,” since it did not provide exceptions for rape or incest.

Women seeking an abortion, regardless of the reason, face significant costs without insurance coverage, and sometimes forgo other necessities like rent or utilities to pay for the procedure. Critics argue that these kinds of coverage bans discriminate against poor women, forcing them alone to risk losing their protected right to an abortion due to lack of funds.

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An earlier version of the bill also made an exception for student health plans in the state, but that language was removed.

The governor also signed into law SB 292, which “changed pretty dramatically from its introduced form to what was actually passed,” Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, told Rewire. “That’s a positive. I have to give great credit to the leadership, specifically to the senate and house health committee chairs, for demonstrating that everybody hasn’t forgotten how laws get made appropriately.”

In its original form, SB 292 would have made public the names of “backup” doctors who provide abortion clinics with admitting privileges required by law. That, pro-choice advocates feared, could put those doctors in danger because of the aggressive and sometimes violent protest activity against Indiana abortion providers and advocates.

“Regardless of how people feel about the issue of choice, most people do not think it’s OK for these protesters to behave the way that they do,” Cockrum said. “[Legislators] understood that it’s imperative that these doctors, and/or backup doctors, are protected from that kind of behavior.”

In its amended form, the bill merely requires that admitting privileges be documented in writing, which is usually already the case. But Cockrum said that the bill still adds more big government regulations to an already over-regulated medical procedure. “So even while we worked very diligently to get the bill into the form that it’s in, it was unnecessary and we opposed it,” she said.

Cockrum noted that fewer anti-choice bills than usual moved through the legislature this year because more attention was focused on a failed attempt to enshrine a ban on same-sex marriages and civil unions alike into the state constitution.

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