This certainly isn't offering much of a "choice," is it? Sort of gives the lie to the whole "pro-choice" position when you force every citizen who pays for maternity benefits to pay for someone's abortion.
With 21 states having adopted bans or severe restrictions on insurance companies from paying for abortions, Washington is alone in seriously considering legislation mandating the opposite.
The Reproductive Parity Act, as supporters call it, would require insurers in Washington state who cover maternity care -- which all insurers must do -- to also pay for abortions.
The bill passed the state House earlier this month by a vote of 53-43, though it faces an uncertain future in the Senate. A similar bill in the New York state Assembly has been introduced each session for over a decade but has never received a public hearing.
"This is a core value for Washingtonians," said Melanie Smith, a lobbyist for NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. "We should protect it while we still have it and not leave access to basic health care up to an insurance company."
The proximate cause of Washington state's measure is the federal Affordable Care Act. Thanks to language placed in it to assuage anti-abortion congressional Democrats, insurers selling their plans on the state exchanges taking effect next year will have to segregate the premiums they collect for abortion coverage.
In addition to that built-in disincentive to insuring abortion, the law also invites states to enact stricter rules of their own. Thus far, 16 states have followed suit, barring or restricting insurance companies on their exchanges from covering the procedure. Three of those states are joining the five that have barred or limited all insurers from covering abortions since the early 1980's.
Supporters of Washington state's proposed abortion insurance mandate are careful to stress that it wouldn't lead to a dramatic uptick in abortions or require carriers with a religious bent to cover the procedure. They also note that a pair of federal plans that will be sold on all 50 state exchanges will be barred from covering elective abortions.
The whole scenario is reminiscent of the promise made by the feds not to force religious organizations to pay for contraceptives. Segregating the policies will be difficult, and defining which carriers with "a religious bent" will be exempt.
And how do they know that it wouldn't lead to more abortions? That's nonsense. They don't know that. Even if it's true, that isn't the point and they know it.
Passage of the bill is not assured, and since most insurers in the state already offer abortion coverage, the actual impact of the bill would not be great.
But as a symbolic act, it resonates with both the pro-life and pro-choice movements.