JEFFERSON CITY - Just one day after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its landmark healthcare legislation after negotiations with anti-abortion Democrats, state senators pushed a bill through committee to impose additional restrictions on health-insurance abortion coverage.
In a rare move, members of the Insurance Committee voted immediately after testimony to advance a bill that would prevent consumers from purchasing optional insurance that would cover abortions. Current Missouri law restricts abortion insurance coverage to optional riders, or a health insurance plan to which someone can opt in.
The Senate bill would extend that restriction to include this optional health insurance coverage, specifically for abortions.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Scott Rupp, R-St. Charles County, said the issue became even more relevant with the passage of federal healthcare legislation Sunday. In order to win over anti-abortion Democrats, Pres. Barack Obama agreed to issue an executive order providing that no funds from the federal bill could be used to pay for abortions.
Rupp said that agreement is not forceful enough.
"The executive order that was supposed to fix this is not worth the paper it's printed on," Rupp said. "The Supreme Court has said that executive order cannot trump law, and the law says that it has to be covered. States have to enact this unless they do want to subsidize abortion."
Rupp said his bill would allow for the state to counter the federal legislation that allows insurance to cover abortions.
"We need to enact this opt-out provision to continue the longstanding tradition in Missouri that we do not use public funds to subsidize abortion coverages," he said.
The lone vote in opposition to the bill was cast by Sen. Rita Days, D-St. Louis County. Days said she voted against the bill in keeping with her support of pro-choice policies.
"I do think women have the right to choose," Days said. "The erosion of that is not right."
Under its current statute, Missouri is one of only five states to restrict abortion coverage to optional riders, and one of four to make an exception in coverage only for life endagerment, according to Michelle Trupiano, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood.
Trupiano said further restrictions on abortion insurance coverage would make it nearly impossible for women of lower socio-economic statuses to afford abortion procedures.
"This (legislation) is leaving women who are already in very difficult circumstances without any options," Trupiano said. "The bottom line is that women and their families should be making these decisions, not the government."
Trupiano said a basic first-trimester abortion typically costs between $400 and $600, while an abortion with complications can cost up to thousands of dollars. Trupiano did not know whether optional insurance for abortions resulted in cost savings for participants or typically exceeded abortion costs.