Extremists Push to Make It Even Harder to Access Abortion Care in Texas

by Dan Quinn

Anti-abortion extremists in Texas are pushing new legislation that would make it even more difficult, if not impossible, for millions of Texans to have access to safe, legal and affordable abortion care. This time they’re doing so by attacking private health insurance offered through the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), or “Obamacare.”

Extremists have long attacked the the ACA for allegedly forcing federal taxpayers to “subsidize” abortions. But they haven’t been telling the truth.

Since the passage of the so-called Hyde Amendment in the late 1970s, federal law has barred the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except in the cases of rape or incest and if the life of the mother is endangered. The ACA doesn’t change that. From the Henry K. Kaiser Family Foundation’s excellent website detailing the provisions of the ACA:

The ACA reinforces the current Hyde Amendment restrictions, continuing to limit federal funds to pay for pregnancy terminations that endanger the life of the woman or that are a result of rape or incest. State Medicaid programs continue to have the option to cover abortions in other circumstances using only state funds and no federal funds. President Obama issued an executive order as part of health reform that restated the federal limits specifically for Medicaid coverage of abortion. The law also explicitly does not preempt other current state policies regarding abortion, such as parental consent or notification, waiting period laws or any of the abortion limits or coverage requirements that states have enacted.

Despite its status as a legal medical procedure with an important role in reproductive health care, abortion coverage is not one of the federally established essential benefits in ACA-compliant health insurance plans available through the state marketplaces, or exchanges, set up under the federal law. Moreover, at least one plan on each exchange must not include coverage for abortion (except to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest). Otherwise, private insurers can choose to include coverage for abortion care in their plans offered through the state exchanges, but consumers may not use their federal subsidies available through the ACA to pay for such coverage. They must instead pay a separate premium for that coverage out of their own pocket.

Even so, the radical organization Texas Right to Life is calling for passage of two anti-abortion bills proposed this session in the Texas Legislature, SB 575 by state Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, and HB 1435 by state Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo. SB 575 and HB 1435 would essentially bar any health insurance plans on the state exchange in Texas from offering coverage for abortion care, except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is in danger.

Of course, the ultimate goal of extremist groups like Texas Right to Life is to end access to safe, legal abortion care completely and permanently. But until then, they’re determined to ensure that access is so limited that it’s virtually impossible for most Texans to get it.