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Scott Walker Just Made Wisconsin the Latest State to Ban Abortion Coverage for Government Workers

Teddy Wilson

There are 21 states where legislators have passed laws that restrict abortion coverage in insurance plans for public workers.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Tuesday signed a bill prohibiting the state’s health insurance program from covering abortion care for state and local public workers.

Nicole Safar, director of government relations at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, said in a statement that Republicans in the state have made it a priority to take away health insurance coverage for women.

“This bill doesn’t prevent abortions, it compromises maternal health,” Safar said. “No one plans for their pregnancy ending in a medical emergency, which is precisely why insurance coverage is so necessary.”

Wisconsin is the latest state where legislators have banned insurance coverage of abortion care for public workers. There are 21 states that have passed laws restricting abortion coverage in insurance plans for public workers, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Lawmakers in several states have introduced legislation to restrict coverage of abortion care both in public and private health insurance.

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Most recently, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in August signed a bill that prohibits a qualified health plan offered through a health benefit exchange, as administered by the federal government or created under the Affordable Care Act, from providing coverage for abortion care unless the abortion is performed due to a medical emergency.

Wisconsin’s AB 128, sponsored by state Rep. André Jacque (R-DePere), prohibits the Group Insurance Board (GIB) from contracting for or providing abortion services, except in the case of a medical emergency, a serious health risk to the pregnant patient, or in cases of sexual assault or incest.

Under current law, the GIB offers health insurance coverage to eligible workers under the Wisconsin Retirement System, which includes all state workers and state annuitants and may include local government workers.

Mark Grapentine, a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Medical Society, told the Capital Times that the organization opposed the legislation because abortion care is a legal medical procedure.

“Legislative action to bar the GIB from offering a health insurance coverage agreement that includes access to a legal procedure may not be in the best interests of plan participants who may need access to those legal procedures,” Grapentine said.

Opponents argued that the legislation was redundant because under the previous law, state health insurance plans only covered abortion care if a physician determined it to be medically necessary

Jacque previously said that “abortion is not health care” and that abortions are never medically necessary. “If there were real-world examples, I think we would have heard about them,” Jacque said.

Republican lawmakers have often made the claim that abortion care is never medically necessary, despite real-world examples of people who have needed abortion care for medical reasons.

Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, told Governing magazine that the legislation is intended to discourage pregnant people from terminating a pregnancy. “It is designed to steer a patient to continue a pregnancy rather than allowing the pregnant person to make the best health care decision,” Nash said.

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