UPDATE, May 6, 4:41p.m.: Wednesday afternoon, the Texas Senate gave its final approval to a bill that bans insurance coverage for abortion care both on the private market and in public exchanges, and its author rejected an amendment that would have allowed victims of rape or incest to apply for abortion coverage. The measure, which allows coverage for abortion only in a “medical emergency,” passed with a 21-10 vote; the sole Democrat to vote in favor bill was Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville). The bill now goes to the Texas House of Representatives for consideration.
In a vote split along party lines, the Texas Senate on Tuesday voted to ban insurance coverage for abortion care in both private and public insurance plans.
Texans who want insurance coverage for abortion care will have to purchase that coverage as part of a supplemental plan, separately from the insurance they pay for through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or under their private insurance plans.
The GOP-supported bill makes an exception for a “medical emergency,” as determined by the state health and safety code.
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But SB 575’s sponsor, Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), an insurance agent, said during floor debate that he thought the cost of the supplemental insurance would be low, though he did not name a price. He said his proposal “really is a choice bill,” and was necessary to protect anti-choice Texans from paying into insurance pools that might cover abortion care.
State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Houston), peppered Taylor with hypotheticals during the debate, asking whether Texans who have unviable pregnancies with fetal anomalies, or other unsustainable pregnancies that were not strictly life-threatening, would be allowed insurance coverage for their care.
Taylor called Watson’s examples “extreme” and said that they would only affect a “very small subset” of Texans. He said that those people “can still choose what they choose to do, but they’re going to have to pay for it.”
State Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) also criticized Taylor’s proposal, saying that Taylor had singled out abortion care for unique regulation, and asked Taylor if there are any other medical procedures or conditions that are treated differently.
Taylor responded that insurance for maternity care must also often be purchased separately.
The Republican-dominated Texas Senate will need to vote on the bill one more time—largely a procedural move, without debate—before it is transferred to the Texas House of Representatives for consideration.