Last night, the Tennessee House of Representatives approved HB 2681, a measure that would prohibit insurers from offering abortion services within the exchange and could possibly deny coverage to common contraceptives. Sponsors of the abortion measure maintained that their bill would only prohibit tax dollars from funding abortions in the exchange, but the measure’s broad language — it says, “No health care plan required to be established in this state through an exchange” — would deny women the right to purchase coverage for abortions (including Hyde-exempted abortions) with private dollars in the exchange and could significantly disadvantage women who need to obtain an abortion in instances of rape, incest or if their life is in danger.
In fact, the House rejected an amendment clarifying that women would be able to buy supplementary abortion coverage with private dollars in the exchange. Rep. Matthew Hill, the bill’s sponsor, argued that women whose life was in danger or those who became pregnant a result of incest or rape “would be able to pay with a private insurance plan, they would be able to pay out of pocket, if they were indigent, TennCare would allow for that to take place.” He was also unmoved by appeals from his Republican colleagues who argued forcing some women to pay for Hyde abortions out of pocket could threaten women’s lives, as some would surely find the proceudre cost prohibitive, particularly if they had health complications that dramatically in creased the price. “At the end of the day, this is very simple. Do your constituents want their tax dollars going to kill unborn babies? It’s as simple as that,” Hill insisted.
House Democrats argued that the bill’s broad definition of abortion could very well deny coverage for common contraceptives. “What you are doing here is you are prohibiting a huge number of birth control methods, if this is the citations you are using [to define abortion]. I’m just saying to my colleagues that this is going way beyond what I believe Rep. Hill intends for it to do.” “If you’re trying to prohibit exchanges from paying for birth control, that’s exactly what you’re doing,” one representative argued.
Earlier, a House committee approved The Tennessee Health Care Freedom Act, which “declares that Tennesseans can ignore a federal health care law that includes penalties for those who refuse to get health insurance.” The state Senate also voted 21-7 “to pass a resolution urging the Tennessee attorney general to join states challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care overhaul.”