Washington State Considers Bill Requiring Health Plans To Pay For Abortions

Grace Carr | Reporter

Washington state is considering a bill that would mandate insurance companies pay for abortions to any woman who wants one.

“It’s vital that women have access to whatever contraceptive drugs, devices, products and services we need to manage our reproductive needs and overall health,” state Sen. Annette Cleveland, a Democrat, said, according to the Peninsula Daily News. “This legislation has been a long time in coming and will make a big difference in many women’s lives.”

Proponents and critics of the bill presented oral arguments during a Tuesday hearing on the measure in question, Senate Bill 6219. The measure insists that any company who provides maternity leave must also provide coverage for women who seek to abort. Democratic state Sen. Steve Hobbs, the bill’s primary sponsor, said he is hopeful the measure, which has failed to pass for the last five years, will finally become law.

Others aren’t enthused about the bill, however, and argue it violates the rights of religious groups and organizations that morally object to abortion.

“It would require contraception and abortion coverage while violating the constitutionally protected conscious rights of individuals, churches, businesses and others,” Peter Sartain, archbishop of Seattle and Washington State Catholic Conference, said at the bill’s hearing Tuesday. “Maintaining the state’s commitment to religious freedom is vital.”

Federal law prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding abortions except in cases of rape or where a woman’s life is in danger. Most abortions in Washington are not covered by Medicaid insurance programs.

The bill does not allow exceptions for religious or moral objection, according to Seattle attorney Theresa Shremp. (RELATED: California Dem Wants To Mandate State Colleges Have Abortion Pills Ready For Students)

California lawmakers are also debating whether to adopt a bill that would require the state’s public universities and colleges to offer abortion drugs at their health centers. Senate Bill 320, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Connie Leyva, will mandate the state’s community colleges and public universities provide women with abortion pills for up to 10 weeks of pregnancy, so they don’t face a burden by traveling to obtain an abortion.

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