Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed a bill into law Wednesday that requires 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 likely to face legal challenges.
The bill, dubbed the Reproductive Parity Act by its supporters, also requires health plans issued or renewed after Jan. 1, 2019, to provide free coverage for all contraceptive drugs, devices, and voluntary sterilizations.
At the bill’s signing, Inslee said it would "make sure that women have access to the full spectrum of healthcare they need without cost barriers or stigma.”
"Reproductive healthcare, including family planning and abortion, is healthcare," he added.
From reproductive parity in health care to equal pay to ensuring we're standing with anyone who says "Me Too," today's bill signing was all about protecting the rights of women in our state. #waleg pic.twitter.com/yUoKFSEffU— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) March 21, 2018
"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.
The bill had the support of abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL.
However, religious groups and Republicans in the state legislature have expressed serious concern that the bill violates religious freedom rights for many in the state.
“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 sincerely held religious beliefs of a vast majority of this state are being violated by this bill,” State Rep. Matt Shea (R) said.
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.