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Senate Gives First OK to Bill Banning Insurers From Covering Abortion

The Texas Senate on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a measure that would prohibit health insurers from covering abortion.

Then-state Rep. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, is shown on the second-to-last day of the first-called special session during the 82nd Legislature on June 27, 2011. Taylor was elected to the Texas Senate in 2012.

Health insurers would be prohibited from covering abortion in all cases save for medical emergencies under a bill the Texas Senate gave preliminary approval to on Tuesday. 

Senate Bill 575 by Republican state Sen. Larry Taylor of Friendswood passed on a 21-10 vote. One Democrat joined the chamber's Republicans to approve the measure.

“This is not a ban on elective abortions,” Taylor told the chamber, repeating a line he used when presenting his bill in committee last month. He added that the legislation would give Texans the “choice” to not pay for others’ abortions by way of buying into health plans.

Under SB 575, private health insurance plans and those offered through the federal Affordable Care Act’s marketplace could only provide coverage for abortions in cases of medical emergencies. Women seeking coverage for what Taylor calls “elective” abortions would be required to purchase supplemental health insurance plans.

Ten states now prohibit all health plans from covering abortion, and 15 prohibit abortion coverage on federal marketplace plans, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Taylor’s proposal was met with opposition from most Democrats, including state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, who presented several hypothetical cases — including rape and fetal abnormalities — in which women could be negatively affected by SB 575.

These bills have real-world consequences,” Watson said.

Taylor responded that “in the worst-case scenarios,” women could still access abortion under his bill, adding that abortion providers often offer payment plans to cover the costs of an abortion. He then downplayed the hypothetical situations Watson was presenting, calling them “extreme.”

“I know you don’t mean anything by the use of the word 'extreme,' but I think one of the things we need to do is to be sensitive to how the decisions we're making might impact people’s lives,” Watson said. “A person who finds themselves in any of three scenarios I just talked about might consider our actions to be extreme if we make a very difficult situation more difficult by denying insurance coverage.”

Taylor then said he meant those cases were rare, not extreme.

State Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, criticized Taylor for not knowing how much supplemental insurance for abortion coverage would cost and questioned why the bill did not include an exception for abortions in cases of rape or incest.

“It just doesn’t address it,” Taylor said, adding he’d consider an amendment to include the exception. An amendment was not ultimately attached.

Garcia also raised concerns about the state singling out abortion under insurance plans and not other elective procedures.

“What if I don’t believe in vasectomies?” Garcia asked Taylor.

“That's another bill for another day,” he responded. 

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Health care Politics State government Abortion Texas Legislature