March 3, 2011, 8:14 am EST
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A bill that would ban private health insurance from covering abortions unfairly targets vulnerable women and is another veiled attempt by anti-abortion advocates to limit the procedures in Nebraska, opponents of the legislation said Wednesday.
The proposal would exclude abortion coverage from all private insurance policies sold in Nebraska. Abortion coverage would be allowed only with an optional rider paid for solely by the insured.
“I say that’s a totally unfair situation for women,” said Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm. “I talked to one woman this morning who looks at this kind of rider as ‘rape insurance.’ She would purchase a rider specifically to be covered in the event that she were raped and became pregnant.”
The bill was approved by lawmakers Wednesday 36-9 during first-round debate, but it must move through two more rounds of consideration and votes before it’s sent to the governor. If approved, the bill also would apply to policies sold through a new insurance exchange being set up by states under the new federal health care law.
Five states currently prohibit abortion coverage in basic policies and require a separate additional premium if someone wants the coverage. The states are Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota and Oklahoma.
Haar offered an amendment that would have required health insurance companies to offer riders to cover the cost of abortions, but lawmakers rejected it 35-4.
Haar said his office couldn’t find any insurance companies that offer such riders.
The bill’s sponsor, Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy, said he didn’t think it was necessary to force insurance companies to provide abortion riders in Nebraska.
“I don’t know why we’d go down that trail,” McCoy said. “If a woman wants abortion coverage, they could go out and find an insurance company that offers such coverage.”
When Haar asked which insurance companies offered such riders, McCoy said “it’s unknown whether any do or not.”
Haar responded: “To me, this is saying women don’t have a choice in this matter.”
A day earlier, lawmakers voted down another amendment from Haar that would have called for health insurance coverage of abortions in cases of rape and incest.
McCoy’s bill provides exceptions in coverage only for abortions intended to save the life of the mother. It also allows coverage of treating complications from an abortion.
Several lawmakers have expressed concern that McCoy’s bill does not address victims of rape or incest — the majority of whom tend to be children and young women who, because of their age or financial situations, are unable to purchase insurance policies solely to cover abortion.
McCoy’s bill has the support of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, Nebraska Right to Life, Family First and other anti-abortion groups. The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska has expressed opposition to the bill, which it said might be unconstitutional.
The president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland agreed, saying lawmakers are again flirting with passing an unconstitutional measurer to try to limit a woman’s right to an abortion.
“I really feel this is an outrage and an insult in a civilized society. This is an attack … on health care for women under the most dire circumstances you can image,” June said. “Even the rapist gets state-sponsored health care coverage once he’s sent to prison.”
Abortion bill is LB22.