A rabbi, a priest, and a woman who somehow equated abortion to Martin Luther King, Jr. went to the House Health Care & Wellness Committee hearing yesterday to debate House Bill 2148, the Reproductive Parity Act, which is back on the docket for the third year in a row. Currently, all Washington state insurers that cover maternity care also cover abortions, and the Reproductive Parity Act would ensure that would still be the case with our new healthcare legislation. There were arguments for and against the bill, but misinformation seems to be an inherent problem with this bill.
The primary concern among the bill’s detractors seems to be insurance carrier transparency, and how difficult it is to find the right plan if you don’t want to pay for any abortion services at all. Some health care providers do have refusal clauses, but it’s really hard to wade through the language and figure out which ones they are. I called the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner to see if they could help, and their advice was to literally call every single insurance plan to find out their individual policies.
When I spoke to Jennifer Allen, Director of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood, and she said that “the Reproductive Parity Act would provide more clarity for both purchasers and carriers.” Clearly, we need it.
A lot of the people speaking in opposition to the RPA seem to think abortion rights are an inherent part of our medical structure, and spoke from a place of privilege that did not consider rural areas or the economically disenfranchised. Seriously—one debater ran a $40 million business and didn’t understand why people looking for an abortion couldn’t just pay for one. In Allen’s experience, that’s typical. “Most don’t address the lack of access in rural areas, or economic access of people living paycheck to paycheck and just trying to get through the week.”
It’s also a mistake to think that auxiliary services will take up the slack if the Reproductive Parity Act doesn’t pass. In 2012, only 5% of Planned Parenthood’s services were dedicated to abortions (the majority of their services are contraception and STI/HIV screenings). When asked, Allen said, There’s no way Planned Parenthood can provide no cost abortions for all of the low-income women in our state who might need them.". Quite a few people in opposition to the RPA said that Medicaid would cover the cost, but that’s not really true—the Hyde Amendment prevents federal funds from being used to provide abortions, and only 15 states (including Washington) allow state funds to pay for abortions for women who would otherwise have their pregnancy costs paid by Medicaid. And you still have to go through an application process that includes income restrictions, proof of citizenship, and income verification. Not to mention, in the time it takes to go through all of that paperwork you may be past the date of eligibility for an abortion.