'Rape insurance': Texas House of Representatives passes bill to make women buy extra coverage for abortions

'Women and parents will be faced with the horrific decision of having to purchase 'rape insurance' to cover them if they are victimised,' says Democrat representative

Maya Oppenheim
Thursday 10 August 2017 11:07 BST
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The bill does not make exceptions for abortions that follow rape, incest or fetal abnormalities
The bill does not make exceptions for abortions that follow rape, incest or fetal abnormalities (Getty Images)

A bill which forces women to buy separate insurance coverage for having an abortion has been approved by the Texas House of Representatives.

The measure will ban insurance coverage for abortions and require women who want coverage to go out of their way and buy a separate plan for an abortion.

The bill, which does not make exceptions for abortions that follow rape, incest or fetal abnormalities, now awaits a vote in the Senate.

The measure has been condemned by Democrats who argue it is equivalent to forcing women to buy “rape insurance”.

"Women and parents will be faced with the horrific decision of having to purchase 'rape insurance' to cover them if they are victimised," Democratic Representative Chris Turner said in a statement. "This is not only ridiculous, but it is cruel."

He added: “Women don’t plan to be raped. Parents don’t plan for their children to be victims of incest. Asking a woman or a parent to foresee something like that and buy supplemental insurance to cover that horrific possibility is not only ridiculous, it is cruel.”

Democratic state representatives sought to disrupt the bill and add seven amendments which would introduce exceptions such as rape, incest, ectopic pregnancies, fetal abnormalities, and the mother’s mental health.

Democratic Representative Donna Howard said: “Are you suggesting I would have to force my daughter to continue a pregnancy from a rapist? You don’t want to subsidise that? That’s how far we’re going to go with this?”

Critics attacked the bill as being politically-motivated and ultimately needless and unnecessary given insurance plans in Texas rarely tend to offer abortion coverage in the first place. It is likely abortion rights groups will challenge the measure in court if it were to be implemented.

Nevertheless, Republicans argue the measure will stop opponents of abortion being forced to foot the bill for the procedure.

"It's a question of economic freedom and freedom in general," Republican Representative John Smithee, the bill's sponsor, said in the House debate on Tuesday before it was passed 95 to 51 a day later.

If it were to be enacted, the bill would come into force on 1 December and would make Texas, the most-populous Republican-controlled state in the US, the 11th state to curb abortion coverage in private insurance plans written in the state.

The bill does contain an emergency clause, meaning women whose lives would be in danger from continuing a pregnancy would be able to use general insurance plans to cover their abortions regardless of whether their insurance is via a private health plan, the Affordable Care Act, or the state,.

While abortion has become an increasingly partisan issue in the US in recent years, this has dramatically increased under a Trump administration. In the six months Donald Trump has been in the White House, women's rights group have accused the president of waging a war on women’s healthcare.

The billionaire property developer demonstrated his commitment to anti-abortion policies on his fourth day in office - he signed an executive order barring US funding for any international aid groups which give women information about abortion, even if they do not perform the procedures.

This reinstated and expanded the global gag rule, meaning a wide range of health organisations combating HIV or the spread of Zika will be banned from all US global health funding if they also provide counselling, referrals, or services for safe and legal abortion.

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