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Health plans with abortion coverage? Don’t count on it

Sen. Randi Becker (upper left) Credit: John Stang

The state's proposed Reproductive Parity Act, like the DREAM Act, looks like it's on the road to nowhere – again.

House Democrats have revived and slightly tweaked the 2013 bill, sending it to a Monday public hearing before the House Health Care Committee. Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina and leader of the 24-Republican-two-Democrat Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, said Health Committee chair Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, gets to decide whether the bill gets a hearing in the Senate and passes out of the health committee.

The House passed the bill last year, 53-43, mostly along party lines, only to see it whither and die in Becker's committee. The Senate majority coalition stood by and watched, despite the supposed support of some moderate Republicans and Rodney Tom. Again, just like with the DREAM Act, Coalition moderates were averse to bucking caucus conservatives on controversial legislation.

When asked on Monday about whether the same don't-make-waves pattern would be avoided this session on this bill, he hedged.

A packed hearing chamber was divided roughly in half on Reproductive Parity, which would require health plans that cover maternity care to also cover abortions. Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of the Seattle Diocese contended that the bill discriminated against people who oppose abortion, who should not be forced to participate in an insurance plan that conflicts with their pro-life beliefs.

Supporters argued in favor of a woman's right to have abortion insurance regardless of her carrier. Pregnancies, after all, are often unexpected, and women should not have to worry about whether her insurance covers abortions as she sorts out what she wants to do. "A woman needs options based on her circumstances not her insurance coverage,"said Dr. Annie Iriye, who spoke on behalf of the Washington chapter of the American Association of Obstetricians and Gynocologists.

Perhaps, the strongest testimony came from Angela Connelly, president of the Washington Women's Network. "This bill is not about access to abortion," said Connelly. "This is a bullying bill. It's not about choice. It's about taking away choice."

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