Wisconsin Assembly Bans Private Health Insurance Plans From Offering Abortion Coverage

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin state Assembly passed a bill banning private insurance plans from covering abortions except in cases “of rape, incest or when the health of the mother is at risk.” The GOP-backed legislation already had passed the state Senate, and it cleared the House early Wednesday morning by a 61-34 vote.

Democrats argued the law would create more burdens for women seeking abortions and another unnecessary measure continuing a “war on women.” But GOP state Rep. Joel Kleefisch disagreed. “What about the rights of the women who have not yet been born?” he asked. And the bill’s Republican sponsor framed it as a moral issue:

Rep. Joan Ballweg, a Republican sponsor of the bill…urged everyone to understand the strong feelings of those who supported the measure.

It’s not a war, it’s what we believe whole heartedly,” she said to a silent Assembly chamber after describing her personal loss. “I would hope you respect that. We have different opinions.”

Democrats argued that government should not be the one telling women which abortions can be covered and which can’t.

Keep government out of the bedroom and the doctor’s office,” said Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison.

The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s desk, and it is likely Walker will sign it into law. In his new budget proposal, Walker also supported repealing Wisconsin’s Contraceptive Equity Law, which requires insurance companies to cover prescription birth control, and Title V funding, which cover access to health care like cancer screenings and access to contraception for uninsured men and women.

Under the Affordable Care Act, states are allowed to prohibit abortion coverage in plans sold in the state exchanges. Currently, 12 states have enacted similar legislation restricting insurance coverage of abortions since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010, eight of which restrict abortion coverage in all private plans in the state.

Fatima Najiy