Texas Measure Would Restrict Insurance Coverage For Abortions

Aug 11, 2017
Originally published on August 11, 2017 6:59 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to move to Texas now, where the state Legislature is pushing new restrictions on insurance that covers abortions. The new regulations would require women in Texas to pay a separate insurance premium to get coverage for any abortion that is not an emergency. So that means there are no exceptions for rape, incest or fetal abnormality. NPR's Wade Goodwyn joins us now from Dallas to talk about this. Hey, Wade.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Hello.

MARTIN: Governor Greg Abbott, governor of Texas, is expected to sign this into law. Once it's on the books, how's this going to work?

GOODWYN: Well, it doesn't ban insurance coverage of abortions outright. But it does force any woman who wants abortion coverage to purchase a separate, supplemental plan. The bill's supporters say the idea is that people who don't support abortion shouldn't have to pay for a product that goes against their conscience. It's kind of an extension of the idea that tax dollars shouldn't be used to help pay for poor women's abortions because there are plenty of taxpayers who don't believe in abortion.

Critics of this legislation say, hey, what about if a woman's raped or there's a fetal abnormality? One House Democrat said the law would be in Texas women would, in effect, have to purchase what he called rape insurance. The bill's sponsor, Representative John Smithee from Amarillo, replied that victims seldom get pregnant when they're raped. So he considered that argument moot.

When Austin Representative Donna Howard asked Smithee if the mother of a 10-year-old daughter should force her daughter to carry a pregnancy to term if it resulted from rape, Smithee replied that the baby was innocent of the rape, and its life should not be taken. So you can see that the issue of abortion itself is right under the surface of this insurance regulation bill.

MARTIN: How's this going to go over in Texas?

GOODWYN: Well, that's a good question. I mean, it's hard to say definitively how many people will be affected. Many health insurance plans already don't come with abortion coverage included. Some do, and now they won't be able to by law. The law's critics say it's going to be poor women whose insurance does cover abortion who's going to be hardest-hit. And look, it's possible that a woman with a wanted pregnancy whose doctor discovers a profound fetal abnormality might not be covered in that situation. I was told it would depend on the nature of the fetal abnormality.

And just to be clear, Texas is not alone here. The Guttmacher Institute - it's a reproductive health research organization - says there are 10 other states that have similar laws. And there's 15 more states that restrict abortion coverage offered through their insurance exchanges. So this is part of a larger legal trend in Republican-dominated states.

MARTIN: And it is very much in line for Texas. As you note, Texas isn't alone. But it has been one of the states leading the way in the fight against abortion rights.

GOODWYN: You bet. The state has already succeeded in putting out of business dozens of clinics where abortions were performed. Scores of women's health clinics which had nothing to do abortion also closed down. The laws which led to those closures were eventually struck down by the federal courts, but not before they had already had a profound and lasting effect. Texas recently passed a new law effectively banning second-trimester abortions by prohibiting one of the most common methods, dilation and extraction. A lawsuit challenging that law has already been filed in federal court.

MARTIN: NPR's Wade Goodwyn reporting from Dallas. Wade, thanks so much.

GOODWYN: You're quite welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.