Texas is one huge step closer to making abortions harder for women to obtain after H.B. 214, a bill that would prevent private health insurance or plans obtained under the Affordable Care Act from covering most abortions, passed out of the Texas House on Tuesday.
The Houston Chronicle reports that in a vote of 95-51, the House affirmed its support of the bill, which would prohibit standard insurance plans from covering abortions in all cases except when the mother’s life is in danger. The bill would require women to buy supplemental insurance to cover this basic care, which hundreds of thousands of American women require every year. The bill does not allow for any exception for rape or incest, which led Democratic Rep. Chris Turner to say the bill is forcing women to buy “rape insurance.”
A Senate vote on Wednesday will decide if this bill will go to Governor Greg Abbott to be signed into law.
Debate around the bill has been heated, with Republicans saying the bill would prevent anti-choice constituents from being “forced” to pay for abortions. Texas already has number of anti-choice laws already on the books—in fact, they’re some of the few laws that the Senate and House have been able to successfully pass, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Ten states have laws that keep ACA plans from covering abortion services, two of which have exception for rape or incest. If HB 214 passes, Texas will be the second state, after Oklahoma, to stop employers from offering health care plans that cover abortion. Abortion rights advocates say this new measure is clearly meant as another attack against women’s civil liberties:
“This legislation is part of an agenda to shame, bully, and punish people seeking abortion, and we’ve seen firsthand how Texans are harmed when abortion coverage is banned,” said Amanda Williams, Executive Director of Texas’s Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity. “Every person should be able to make their own reproductive decisions, no matter what insurance they have or how much money is in their bank account.”
Republican State Rep. John Smithee is the biggest proponent of the bill, and during the debate he claimed that not only did he believe it was morally wrong for him to pay for an abortion, he also had an “economic objection.” After all, he’s a man, and won’t need one. Why should he pay? Courthouse News reports that he was subsequently questioned about what sorts of women’s health issues he’d be willing to contribute to:
Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, said there are other procedures covered by general insurance plans, such as hysterectomies and breast exams, that Smithee would never use.
“Can you have a hysterectomy?” Wu asked.
“Medically, I don’t know,” Smithee said.