The Texas House passed this week a GOP-backed bill which requires women to pay for a separate health insurance supplement for non-emergent abortions.
The legislation, which passed with a final vote of 92 to 46 Wednesday, bars insurance plans from covering elected abortions. Should a woman want insurance to help alleviate the costs from a non-emergent abortion, she would need to purchase an additional insurance supplement.
The bill does not provide exceptions for rape or incest.
Because of that, opponents of the H.B. 214 bill – which still has to pass Texas’ Senate – have said it requires women to purchase “rape insurance.”
Read on for a look at what the bill does – and how “rape insurance” came to be.
What is ‘rape insurance?’
Democrats who spoke out against the bill said they did so because it would “force” women to buy insurance in case of a rape.
Democratic State Rep. Chris Turner compared the proposed plan to a person who has basic health insurance who has to add on a vision plan or someone who has a simple home insurance plan but adds on flood insurance.
“No woman plans to be raped. No parent plans for their child to be a victim of incest,” Turner told Fox News. “The idea that a woman would be forced to consider purchasing for herself – or a parent would be forced to purchase for their child – essentially a rape insurance policy should be abhorrent.”
“No woman plans to be raped. No parent plans for their child to be a victim of incest.”
He continued, “I think it’s abhorrent, it’s sick, it’s cruel.”
Turner introduced an amendment to the bill that would include an exception for cases of rape and incest, but it failed.
A Republican lawmaker who voted for the bill both Tuesday and Wednesday declined to comment on the record but did say the term “rape insurance” was “offensive” and “exploited rape victims for a political gain.”
Has it been used before?
This isn’t the first time the term “rape insurance” has been used in conjunction with a bill backed by anti-abortion lawmakers and activists. Currently, 10 other states restrict all private insurance coverage of abortions.
Michigan’s Republican-led legislature approved a controversial abortion bill in 2013 that prohibited insurers from paying for abortions unless a woman already had purchased a separate coverage plan.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a similar measure, but it was still passed through the state’s little-known “citizen-initiated” law when the anti-abortion group “Right to Life of Michigan” garnered enough signatures to pass it.
Then-state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, the minority leader at the time, said she was grateful that she was not impregnated when she was raped more than two decades ago.
“As a legislator, a lawyer and a mother of two girls, I think the fact that rape insurance is even being discussed by this body is repulsive,” she said.
Idaho, Kentucky and Missouri placed restrictions on abortion coverage in 1980. And since 2011, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Utah have also enacted restrictions for women who wish to use insurance to help cover abortions, according to a Think Progress report.
Utah does have an exception for victims of rape, incest or fetal impairment.
What have other responses been to the bill?
State Rep. John Smithee, the Republican who authored the bill, has defended the legislation as he said it gives individuals more “options.”
“The bill simply provides the individual with the option to purchase coverage for elective abortions or not,” Smithee said in a statement to Fox News. “It is nothing more than allowing the individual to make the choice rather than the insurance company.”
“A woman who is victimized by the perpetrator of a rape would still be fully covered for her medical expenses under the terms of her insurance just as she is now,” Smithee continued. “The only procedure not covered would be the actual abortion. That is true today in the vast majority of policies whether this legislation passes or not. Thus, to characterize this legislation as having anything to do with rape victims is pure political rhetoric of the worst sort.”
“This isn’t about who can get an abortion. It’s about who is forced to pay for an abortion,” he previously said.
Heather Busby, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, slammed the bill and criticized “some politicians” for remaining “single-mindedly fixated on pushing abortion out of reach in our state.”
“Texans should be able to make reproductive health decisions, including the decision to have an abortion, with dignity and respect and without politicians interfering with abortion coverage bans like HB 214,” Busby said in a statement to Fox News.
“Texas Right to Life,” an anti-abortion non-profit, said following the bill’s passage in the state House that anti-abortion Texans are “one step closer to no longer involuntarily subsidizing the abortions of others through their premium[s] and tax dollars.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.