The Washington state legislature passed the so-called “Reproductive Parity Act” with a Senate vote of 27-22 Saturday. The bill would require the state’s insurers who cover maternity care to also cover elective abortions and contraception. The measure has no religious or moral exemptions and is headed to Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk where he is expected to sign it into law.
The bill also requires health plans issued or renewed after Jan. 1, 2019, to provide free coverage for all contraceptive drugs, devices, and voluntary sterilizations.
"No woman should have to seek or pay for an additional rider or copay or have any other means of delay or financial burden for this coverage," state Sen. Steve Hobbs, the bill’s sponsor, told the Associated Press in January.
However, the bill met with objections from Hobbs’s Republican colleagues and some who argue that the legislation would attack the conscience rights of those who object to abortion.
"The underlying bill forces those of us who believe abortion takes a life to pay for people making that decision, and that is very troubling," Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner told AP.
“It would require contraception and abortion coverage while violating the constitutionally-protected conscious rights of individuals, churches, businesses and others,” Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle and Washington State Catholic Conference, said at a hearing on the bill. “Maintaining the state’s commitment to religious freedom is vital.”
Sartain added that since Catholic Churches and other morally objecting organizations cannot cover contraception and abortion, a legal challenge would ensue if the bill becomes law.
The Hyde amendment prohibits federal funds from going to abortion except for cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother, so insurers on the state's health exchange would need to create separate accounts for premium payments for abortion and premiums for all their other services.