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Oklahoma Is At It Again: State Legislature Passes Bill Stripping Abortion Coverage From Health Insurance

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"Oklahoma Is At It Again: State Legislature Passes Bill Stripping Abortion Coverage From Health Insurance"

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As ThinkProgress has reported, many far-right members of the Oklahoma legislature have made denying women rights a full-time mission. What the legislature has done in recent weeks:

– Both the House and the Senate passed a law mandating the collection of personal details about every single abortion performed in the state, which will then be posted on a public website.

– The legislature overrode the governor’s veto of an ultrasound mandate, which requires that doctor’s show women seeking an abortion ultrasounds of their babies and “describe the size of the fetus and any viewable organs and limbs. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.” The law also “limits who can do the ultrasound and which technology can be used — issues lawmakers are ill-equipped to decide.”

– The legislature also overrode the governor’s veto of a measure to prevent women from filing “wrongful life” lawsuits against “doctors who withhold information about a fetus or pregnancy that could cause a woman to seek an abortion.”

Yesterday, the Oklahoma House was at it again, this time passing a bill (HB 3290) by a 70-21 vote to bar private insurance companies from covering abortion. From the legislation:

No health plan, including health insurance contracts, plans or policies, offered outside of the state Exchange, but within the state, shall provide coverage for elective abortions except by optional separate supplemental coverage for abortion for which there must be paid a separate premium in accordance with subsection D of this act.

The bill does provide “exceptions in cases of rape and incest or to prevent the death of the mother.” Rep. Skye McNiel (R), the author of the legislation, said that it was simply meant to “ban state insurance exchanges created under the recently signed federal health care legislation from covering abortion procedures.” However, several legislators — including a Republican Rep. Doug Cox, who is also a doctor — spoke out against what the House was doing:

“This bill is nothing but pure politics so people can go home and stand up and beat their chests and say, ‘I voted against abortion of any type,’” Cox said. “You’re going to be trampling on some people who are good Christian people who are against abortion, but when it comes to one of these sad, terribly sad, freaks of nature that happen, you’re going to be punishing those good Christian people who are against abortion except in these cases.”

As CAP’s Jessica Arons has pointed out, making women purchase a separate abortion “rider” — as this legislation does — is discriminatory and requires women “to plan for a completely unexpected event.” Similarly, Rep. Jeannie McDaniel (D), who also voted against the bill, read a letter from a doctor who said that it’s unfair to require women to purchase special abortion coverage in advance because “a medically necessary termination of pregnancy is something that no family plans for or anticipates.” According to Cox, paying for abortion without insurance could cost a woman $10,000.

Oklahoma joins other states such as Arizona, Mississippi, and Tennessee in prohibiting insurers from offering abortion coverage in state exchanges, even if it’s paid for with private dollars.

State Sen. Steve Russell (R) recently tried to justify the abortion-reporting bill by saying, “This is not about women. It is about children in the womb deserving a life that got created.” The fact that lawmakers like Russell are leaving women’s interests out of the equation underscores the problem of what’s going on in Oklahoma.

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