Over the weekend, Texas lawmakers passed a bill to further restrict abortion access in the state. House Bill 214 was given early approval by the Texas State Senate on Saturday night during a 30-day special session called by Governor Gregg Abbot in July.
The bill bans all private health insurance plans and plans sold through the Affordable Care Act marketplace from covering abortion care unless the life of the woman is directly at risk. Instead, women would be required to buy supplemental insurance should they ever think they may need or want an abortion, prompting some Democratic lawmakers to accuse Republicans of forcing women to buy “rape insurance.”
The bill passed the Senate with a 20-10 vote on party lines and is headed to the Governor’s desk where it is expected to be signed into law. Texas will join ten other states that require additional insurance to cover abortion procedures including Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Utah. Only Utah and Indiana make exceptions to this rule in cases of rape and incest.
Women who have not elected to pay the additional premium for abortion coverage in their insurance plan are likely to pay for the procedure out of pocket. According to Planned Parenthood, an abortion procedure can often cost as much as $1,500 and varies depending on how far along the pregnancy is.
Texas has long been considered a hostile state for reproductive rights. Since 2011, the state has refused federal Medicaid family planning funds due to the fact that they would then be required to fund family planning clinics that are affiliated with abortion providers, resulting in a 66 percent cut to their family planning budget. Since then, 82 family planning clinics across Texas have been forced to close and the maternal mortality rate has doubled, with over a quarter of women enrolled in Medicaid now unable to see a covered doctor of any kind.
Texas’s special legislative session continues and will move on to debate the transgender bathroom bill. The bill would require people in school and government buildings to use the restroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificates, and forbid localities from enforcing anti-discrimination laws that would extend protections to transgender people using the bathroom of their choice. Reports say that there is little time left to pass the bill and the special session will most likely end without its passage.
Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 8/9/17; Texas Tribune 8/12/17; Slate 8/14/17; Planned Parenthood; Reuters 8/14/17