"Rape Insurance" Bill Close to Becoming Law

HB 214 bars private, state-offered, and ACA abortion coverage

Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, carried the Senate's version of HB 214, a bill that bans insurance coverage of abortion care. He failed to accept amendments carving out exceptions for rape or incest survivors.
Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, carried the Senate's version of HB 214, a bill that bans insurance coverage of abortion care. He failed to accept amendments carving out exceptions for rape or incest survivors. (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Ecstatic to bring their first child into the world, Austin residents Scott Ross and Jeni-Putalavage Ross approached the 21st week of pregnancy with joy.

But a routine trip to the doctor soon revealed a rare and severe chromosomal fetal abnormality. Their future baby would not survive birth. The doctor recommended termination of pregnancy, a decision the couple did not make lightly. Scott said: “We felt a lot of mental anguish, but we knew the anguish – physical and mental – would be even harder if we carried the baby to term.”

Due to complications, Jeni spent seven days in the ICU. All said and done, the Rosses' medical bill totaled a whopping $64,000. Thankfully, employer-based insurance covered 90% of the tab. However, an anti-choice Texas bill – inches away from becoming law – would have prevented the Rosses and couples like them from receiving insurance coverage for abortion care. “Under the bill, we would have had to pay out of pocket and would have been in dire financial straits, on top of the pain we felt losing our child,” said Scott, who likened the bill to a “pregnancy tax.”

One of Gov. Greg Abbott’s special session agenda items, HB 214 by Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, (and Senate counterpart SB 8 by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe) bars abortion coverage from private, state-offered, and Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance plans, with an exception for a narrowly defined “medical emergency” but no exceptions for rape, incest, or fetal abnormalities – an especially cruel aspect of the bill that compelled critics and some legislators to dub it the "rape insurance" bill. Women would be forced to somehow anticipate the need for abortion care – an unpredictable life event – and purchase supplemental coverage, defying the point of insurance.

“It’s so frustrating to hear lawmakers call it an ‘elective abortion’ – we didn’t elect to have a child who is incompatible with life,” said Scott. “Like all abortions, it was unforeseen.”

Further, the bill doesn’t require insurance plans to offer the added coverage, or even notify clients if they don’t offer it. “You can be basically flying blind when choosing your insurance plan and not know the plan you’re buying for your family didn’t cover pregnancy termination even if it’s the result of rape or incest,” health care attorney Blake Rocap of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, pointed out to the Senate’s Business and Commerce committee during a Friday hearing (Aug. 11).

Bill authors claim the legislation is about “economic freedom” and allowing those who "philosophically disagree" with abortion to not have to subsidize the procedure, but the measure will end up unnecessarily and unfairly pushing abortion further out of reach for women, especially low-income women, pro-choice advocates caution. Texas isn’t alone in banning abortion insurance coverage; other GOP-controlled states have taken on similar laws: 10 states ban abortion from private insurance, and 25 states bar the procedure from health exchanges, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

On Saturday, during a hearing held well after 5pm, Senate Republicans left their empathy and compassion at the door while swatting down Democrat-authored amendments that sought to carve out exceptions for rape and incest victims and for women with severe fetal abnormalities, before eventually ushering the bill along to third reading in a 20-10 vote on party lines. It’s highly expected to pass the Senate’s final hurdle and eventually head to Abbott’s desk to become law. (House Democrats similarly attempted to include those exceptions, but Republicans callously shot them down when passing through HB 214 earlier this week, as noted in this week’s issue.)

“No one plans to be raped. No one plans to have an abortion. This is what I find so egregious about this bill,” said Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, who offered an amendment to protect victims of sexual assault from the potential new law – it was knocked down in a 20-10 vote. “This shouldn't be a partisan issue. It should be about us caring about sexual assault survivors."

With his amendments killed on the floor, the Senate GOP showed Texans how much they care about sexual assault survivors and all women, loud and clear.

For more, check out our War on Women's Health page.

READ MORE
More abortion rights
Court Delays Undocumented Minor's Right to Abortion
Court Delays Undocumented Minor's Right to Abortion
Jane Doe again faces government engineered obstacles to abortion

Mary Tuma, Oct. 20, 2017

Texas Backs Trump Agency in Holding Undocumented Abortion-Seeking Minor
Texas Backs Trump Agency in Holding Undocumented Abortion-Seeking Minor "Hostage"
Federal agency sent minor to crisis pregnancy center instead

Mary Tuma, Oct. 12, 2017

More Reproductive Rights
Judge Strikes Down Texas Abortion Ban
Judge Strikes Down Texas Abortion Ban
Yeakel slams D&E ban as an "undue burden" on women

Mary Tuma, Nov. 22, 2017

Providers Back in Court To Stop Texas Abortion Ban
Abortion Ban Back in Court
Doctors say law would impose risk, pain for patient

Mary Tuma, Nov. 3, 2017

More by Mary Tuma
T. Don Hutto Abuse Case Goes to FBI
T. Don Hutto Abuse Case Goes to FBI
Laura Monterrosa’s sexual assault saga continues

Dec. 8, 2017

Allegations Mount at T. Don Hutto
Allegations Mount at T. Don Hutto
Two more women come forward to allege sexual abuse inside the detention facility

Dec. 1, 2017

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Reproductive Rights, Sen. Brandon Creighton, Rep. John Smithee, Greg Abbott, Blake Rocap, Jose Menendez, abortion rights

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)