Wash. Bill Mandating Abortion Coverage Fails To Reach Vote

In yet another hurdle for a bill that would require insurers to provide abortion coverage, advocates were not able to get a floor vote in the Washington state Senate for the Reproductive Parity Act.  But, according to the bill’s proponents, it isn’t entirely off the table yet.

Under the bill, public and private insurers that offer health plans covering maternity care would also have to cover abortion services. After sailing through the House last month, the Reproductive Parity Act also made it through Senate committees. Advocates expected the full chamber would approve the measure before the end of last week and send it on to Gov. Christine Gregoire for her expected signature.

Friday, however, was the last opportunity for non-budgetary bills to be brought to a floor vote during the current legislative session. Two separate motions for the Senate to vote lost narrowly, 26-23, due to opposition from a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats, who together kept the Senate busy with other, unrelated bills until time ran out.

Advocates expressed their disappointment, but they noted that the bill could still make it to a floor vote in the near future. Washington has yet to pass its state budget, leaving open the possibility for a special session during which the bill could once again be considered.

The bill drew attention from politicians in the other Washington, the nation’s capital. Six members of Congress, including Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Feb. 16 arguing that the bill would violate a federal law which prohibits discrimination against insurers who don’t provide abortion coverage.

Last week, three House Democrats from Washington state responded with their own letter to Obama, writing that the bill “has been drafted to specifically protect insurance carriers in the state of Washington against discrimination.”

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