Earlier this week, Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana vetoed a bill that would have banned private insurance coverage of abortion in any exchange established in the state pursuant to the federal health care law. This bill would have taken benefits away from Montana women and forced them to pay high out-of-pocket costs for an abortion, even if the procedure was necessary to protect them from serious, permanent, and life-shortening conditions, like cancer. And, as Governor Schweitzer recognized, because of Montana’s strong constitutional protection for the right to abortion, this bill was likely unconstitutional. We thank Gov. Schweitzer for standing up for Montana women and defending reproductive choice!
Unfortunately, women in Virginia are not so lucky. In yet another attack on women’s access to abortion, yesterday, Virginia approved a ban on insurance coverage of abortion in plans that will be sold through the state’s exchange established under the federal health care law. This type of ban didn’t make it through the regular legislative process, so Governor McDonnell added it as an amendment to the legislation that serves as a first step toward establishing the exchange in Virginia.
We’re seeing more of these sneaky attempts to add abortion restrictions into exchange-implementing legislation. For example, in Rhode Island, a state that has historically been friendly to women’s rights, anti-abortion language was recently added into exchange legislation. It just passed the state Senate, putting those who care both about health care reform and reproductive rights in a conundrum.
These last minute attempts are occurring alongside the continued attempts via stand-alone bills to prohibit women from purchasing insurance coverage of abortion. Two other states this session — Utah and Idaho — have already enacted such laws.
So where do women stand now? In eleven states (AZ, ID, KY, LA, OK, MO, MS, ND, TN, UT, VA) women will not be allowed to use their own private money to purchase an exchange-based health plan that covers abortion services, and also may not be able to purchase a plan that provides insurance coverage for abortion at all.
For more details on these bans and how they harm women, check out our factsheet here. We will continue to carefully monitor the pending state bills and encourage you to check back to keep abreast of developments.