Washington state's new abortion debate: Who pays?

With Obamacare set to take effect, lawmakers are mulling a measure that would make health insurers foot the bill.

By Aimee Picchi Apr 2, 2013 10:54AM

Image: Insurance Policy (© Don Carstens/Brand X Pictures/Jupiterimages)Terminating a pregnancy is an issue that spurs fierce moral and religious debates. Now, Washington state is adding another layer to the debate: Who's responsible for paying the doctor's bill?

State lawmakers are debating a law that would put the onus on health insurers, requiring them to pay for elective abortions as part of their plans' maternity care, according to The New York Times

It's an unusual discussion, given that the trend in abortion coverage has recently leaned toward conservative viewpoints. About 21 states have restricted access to abortion by barring insurers from covering the cost of pregnancy termination, according to ThinkProgress.org.

But Washington has taken a pro-choice stance on this issue for many years, becoming the only state to have legalized abortion through a popular vote in 1970. 

While the future of Washington's bill is unclear -- a Republican state senator on Monday stalled the legislation despite a majority of senators expressing support -- the debate raises the question of whether women or insurers should pay the bill. As the Affordable Care Act is set to take effect next year, more women will likely join the rolls of health care insurers. 

Abortion has become increasingly concentrated among poor women, with 42% of those undergoing the procedure with income below the federal poverty level, the Guttmacher Institute reports. Poor women also have five times the rate of unintended pregnancies and abortions as higher-income women, the reproductive health research group notes. 

On top of that, one-third of abortion patients have no health insurance. Partly as a result of that, 57% of women pay for the procedure out of their own pockets, Guttmacher says. 

The average cost of a first-trimester abortion is $470, which means low-income women often need time to come up with the funds, the institute notes.

The Washington bill, called the Reproductive Parity Act, is coming as lawmakers anticipate changes due to Obamacare, reports the Associated Press. The bill aims to maintain coverage that exists in many plans already serving residents. 

"Today every carrier and nearly every plan in Washington already covers abortion," Elaine Rose, an executive with Planned Parenthood, said at a hearing on Monday as quoted in The New York Times. "The Reproductive Parity Act will keep it that way."

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Apr 2, 2013 4:40PM

Why does one American have to pay for another Americans problem because they treat sex as a recreation and/or don't have the resposibility to keep their pants on? Very stupid society we have become! How about Obama and the rest of the democrats paying for my movie ticket? I'll buy the popcorn!

Apr 2, 2013 4:48PM
If women choose abortion they should pay for it. Period.
Apr 2, 2013 4:43PM
You've got 3 choices.  Pay for birth control, pay for the abortion, or pay for 18+ yrs.!  Duh!!!
Apr 2, 2013 12:18PM
If you classify the abortion as a choice or form of birth control, then it should be paid for out of the pocket of the person receiving the abortion.  If it is classified as a medical procedure to save the mother, then it should be paid for like any other medical procedure.  What is so freakin complicated about this issue.  An abortion is going to happen if you agree with it or not.  The least we can do is provide a safe place for the procedure.
Apr 2, 2013 5:05PM
If you are not actively trying to get pregnant, then you are having sex for pleasure.  Nobody else should have to pay for your pleasure, or the results of your pleasure.  You get yourself into that situation, you can get yourself out.  I have my own birth control to buy.  I shouldn't have to pay for your birth control OR your abortion.
Apr 2, 2013 5:12PM

The State of Washington is against killing a criminal but could care less about killing a baby.

Shame on you.

Apr 2, 2013 4:43PM
Abortion is an unfortunate part of our society that I personal wish were not needed. But if it is classified as a " medical procedure" it should be paid for by the person who is recieving the "medical procedure". End of story.
Apr 2, 2013 5:01PM
Women should be made to pay for their own abortions, not insurance companies or the government as there is more than enough contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. As for lower income women they only get pregnant so they may receive more money from the government in their welfare checks. And women that receive welfare should be drug tested to receive it and only receive money for children that they currently have when they apply.
Apr 2, 2013 5:27PM
While I think the financial responsibility of this operation should lie solely on the two people responsible, it is certainly cheaper than the cost of supporting the multiple children these people will irresponsibly keep producing for 18 years a pop.
Apr 2, 2013 4:51PM
Anything to keep a woman who doesn't want to have a baby from having that baby is well worth it.  Raising children properly takes a lot of love, effort and MONEY.  If the abortion doesn't happen, then someone (probably NOT the mother) will end up paying for this child via food stamps, welfare, etc. You can also surmise that the child will not be raised correctly since it wasn't wanted in the first place, so he or she won't turn out too well.  Raising children is a serious responsibility that should not be taken lightly. 
Apr 2, 2013 5:21PM

It's all part of the grand scheme (aka Obamacare). Keep lumping mandated coverages on the insurance companies until they can no longer remain in business, or have to raise their rates too high for anybody to afford. When that happens, the only alternative will be a government run single payor system, and those of you who actually believe that it will run as well as the Canadian system will be in for a big surprise. Medicare is one of the most corrupt government-run boondoggles in the world, and it's only a fraction of how big a single payor system will be.


Government should be regulating the cost of "HEALTH CARE" and "DRUGS", not the cost of health insurance. Too many politicians are reaping huge profits from investing in drug and health care provider companies, and we all let it happen by re-electing them.   

Apr 2, 2013 5:20PM
The 300,000+ babies aborted last year certainly paid.
Apr 2, 2013 5:34PM
Heck of a lot cheaper to pay for an abortion than to pay for a pregnancy and potentially the healthcare for the life of the kid.  Heck with moral arguments, look at it financially and make the decision, even though it is a no brainer.
Apr 2, 2013 6:26PM

if you want an abortion then both parents should sign and they should pay for it . not us tax payers or the insurance company's

Apr 2, 2013 5:05PM
Abortion would not be a political debate if the tax payers did not have to foot the bill.
Apr 2, 2013 5:41PM
Our judges and U.S. supreme court justices are idiots!
Apr 2, 2013 5:42PM

Is that how we think about abortion?  How much does it cost?  Is that all there is to it?

Abortion is death.  Abortion is murder regardless of the circumstance.

That is not to say abortion is not acceptable in the case of rape or incest.

Other than that, the mother and father are the ONLY ones responsible.

Anyone that wants government to pay for their abortion should mandatorily have their tubes tied.

Apr 2, 2013 6:01PM
Insurance should not pay any service to do with child birth or fertilization services. It is a elective procedure and insurance does not pay for any other elective services.
Apr 2, 2013 5:44PM

If the abortion is used as a form of birth control, then it should be paid by the pregnant individual. Abortions SHOULD NOT be used as birth control. Period. It is your CHOICE to have irresponsible sexual relations that lead to a pregnancy. If you aren't responsible enough to wrap it up when having sex, then you should be held responsible in the end result of your actions. Take responsibility people...even though I know this is the error of displacing blame and responsibility on others.


If the pregnancy is the result of a sexual violation or is going to endanger the life of the woman carrying the child, then it should be covered. Can't this be considered the same as an "elective" procedure like plastic surgery? You elected to have irresponsible sexual relations with someone therefore you elect to cover yourself for the consequences.


This liberal state is useless. I need to get out of WA before I lose my mind. People in this state elect people based on party-lines, not what makes sense. Liberals stated that they didn't like Patty Murray or Maria Cantwell yet they still voted them back in. Why? They couldn't vote for a conservative so they went with the worse evil because they were liberals.

Apr 2, 2013 6:31PM
They make it sound like abortions being concentrated among poor (and likely unmarried) women is a bad thing. A recent article points out that 1 in 5 abortions is a repeat procedure, so it obviously can't be that hard of a decision to make.
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