Olympia, Washington – A Republican lawmaker in Washington has blocked a proposed bill that would require insurance companies in the state to provide coverage for abortion services.
As previously reported, the bill, known as The Reproductive Parity Act, passed the House last month by a vote of 53 to 43, but its approval was not so certain in the Senate. On Monday, approximately 250 people packed a hearing of the Senate Health Care Committee, where both sides of the issue were presented. Reports state that many donned buttons and ribbons and dressed in strategic colors to demonstrate their passion both for and against the bill.
During the event, a letter was presented in favor of the The Reproductive Parity Act, which was signed by 25 of the 49 senators in the state — showing a sharp divide in viewpoint.
Various religious leaders also spoke during the comment period. Rabbi Seth Goldstein of Olympia expressed his support of the bill by stating that it would provide both “freedom of religion and freedom from religion.” Catholic Archbishop Peter Sartain opposed the measure, contending that it would force religious businesses to provide coverage that violates their conscience.
Elaine Rose of Planned Parenthood told lawmakers that most insurance companies provide abortion coverage already, and that the bill was intended to ensure that the status quo remains undisturbed. But Angela Connolly of the pro-life organization Washington Women’s Network opined that the act is “anti-woman” because it forces pro-lifers to “participate in what they see as violence against women.”
At the conclusion of the hearing, Republican Senator Randi Becker, the chairman of the Senate Health Care Committee, penned a statement in rejection of the proposal.
“Even advocates of the bill admit that there is no need for the bill today, as every health insurer in the state of Washington provides for abortion coverage,” Becker wrote, alluding to the assertion made by Planned Parenthood. “As such, the decision of the committee is that the bill will not move forward from here this year.”
However, now some of the Democratic members of the committee are unhappy with the decision and claim that the hearing was a charade.
“It was just for show,” stated Senator Karen Keiser, who served on Monday’s panel. “It was simply a way to provoke a circus, in the sense of having a lot of people show up and wave their ideological persuasions in front of us.”
Joseph Backholm of the Family Policy Institute told reporters that Becker made the right call.
“The need for this bill is highly questionable because every insurance company in Washington currently offers abortion coverage,” he said. “While providing additional benefits to no one, the bill simply takes away purchasing options from those who prefer not to subsidize abortion with their premiums.”
“To mandate that we violate our conscience is tyranny,” stated Dan Kennedy, CEO of Human Life of Washington. “There’s no subtle or soft way to put the truth.”
If the bill had passed the committee, and also cleared the Senate floor, Washington would have become the first state in the nation to mandate that insurance companies cover abortion costs. Currently, 21 states have the exact opposite law in effect, barring insurance companies from providing coverage for the intentional deaths of unborn children.