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Ohio House Committee Holds Hearing on Bill to Ban Health Insurance Coverage of Abortion

Teddy Wilson

The bill also seeks to ban coverage of some forms of birth control, which anti-choice lawmakers incorrectly argue are abortifacients.

The Ohio house held a hearing Tuesday on a bill that would ban all health insurance coverage of abortion in the state. The bill, as written, also would ban coverage of some forms of birth control, which anti-choice lawmakers incorrectly argue are abortifacients.

Specifically, HB 351 would ban private health insurance companies from covering “abortion services” as well as coverage of abortion for public employees on the state’s health-care plan. The bill defines “abortion services” as any drug or device “used to prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum.” The ban does not include any exception for cases of rape or incest.

Sponsored by Rep. John Becker (R-Cincinnati), the bill is similar to a new law in neighboring Michigan, which bans private companies in the state from covering abortion as a standard feature of insurance plans. However, insurance companies may offer abortion coverage that can be purchased separately. The Michigan law also does not include an exception for victims of rape or incest.

During his testimony, Becker said that it was not his intent to ban coverage of birth control and suggested that an amendment could be added to the bill to clarify the language. However, Becker claimed that intrauterine devices (IUDs) should be included in the ban because he considers them a type of abortion, which they are not. “This is just a personal view. I’m not a medical doctor,” Becker said.

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This is similar to comments made in May by a Kansas county commissioner who likened IUDs to murder, as the commission voted to reject state funds to provide IUDs to low-income women in the county.

The proposed law also changes the definition of a “nontherapeutic abortion” to no longer exclude abortions that are performed when the a “life of the mother” would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term, or when the pregnancy is the “result of rape or incest.” Under the bill, the only exception would be for women “diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy.”

Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, told Rewire that if this bill became law the threat to women’s health would be difficult to overstate. “There’s a shocking disregard for what would happen to women if this were to pass,” said Copeland.

Copeland says that making abortion in cases of ectopic pregnancy the only exception to the law is “dangerous nonsense” that appears in legislation when “politicians try to play doctor.”

“What business do you have crafting legislation and trying to impose laws on women whose lives may depend on these services and on physicians and medical professionals?” Copeland said.

Stephanie Kight, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio president and CEO, questioned the logic of anti-choice politicians who oppose abortion, yet also seek to restrict access to birth control methods that prevent unintended pregnancies.

“Taking away a resource like insurance coverage is bad politics and bad policy,” said Kight in a statement released after the hearing. ”Politicians have no place in this decision-making process, and that includes using financial restrictions to force a woman’s decision.”

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