COLUMBUS — Even the bill’s author, Rep. John Becker (R., Cincinnati), is unsure it will see a vote. But just the introduction of a measure to all but prohibit private and public insurance policies from paying for abortion services has raised plenty of eyebrows.
A House committee gave House Bill 351 a single hearing last week and then left town without taking action.
With the sole exception of cases involving an ectopic pregnancy, one in which a fertilized egg develops outside the womb, no insurer could pay for an abortion, related tests, or any drug or device that prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. Contraceptives that prevent fertilization of an egg, such as condoms, would not be affected by Mr. Becker’s bill.
There would be no exception for other cases where the mother’s life or health is in danger or when rape or incest are involved. Current state law restricting the use of public funds for abortions provides for those exceptions.
A law was enacted in Michigan late last year over the objections of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder that prohibits coverage of abortion services by insurers unless individuals separately pay out of their own pockets for riders to those policies.
Mr. Becker’s bill would prohibit the purchase of such riders for publicly funded policies in Ohio.
Mr. Becker said he believes a case involving an ectopic pregnancy is “very different” from the exceptions that exist in current law when it comes to use of public funds to pay for abortions.
“In cases of an ectopic pregnancy, 99.9 percent of the time, if the treatment doesn’t happen, both will die,” he said. In the other cases, the emphasis has to be on the fetus.
“This bill will save lives,” he said. “There’s no debate regarding the humanness of an embryo or zygote. The debate is over as to when life begins. That was solved with the discovery of DNA. The debate is about personhood. When does a human being get full human rights?”
There’s a question as to whether the bill would also prohibit insurers from covering contraception medication or devices, such as an IUD, which could fly in the face of the mandate under the Affordable Care Act that most employers’ policies include such coverage.
Mr. Becker said that wasn’t his intent, and he’s willing to consider an amendment making that clear.
But it could still come down to whether the drug or device prevents fertilization of an egg or the implantation of a fertilized egg.
“It’s a belief not based on science,” said state Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), who has pushed for expansion of contraception insurance coverage.
“We’ll wait and see,” she said. “It seems as though there isn’t a lot of wind behind his sails right now. It’s an extreme measure.”
The Republican-controlled General Assembly and Gov. John Kasich have faced criticism for passing laws seen as restricting access to abortions.
They include a law being used now to try to close the Capital Care abortion clinic in West Toledo on the grounds it doesn’t have a valid agreement with a “local” hospital to transfer patients if complications arise.
But the legislature has also been reluctant to embrace other legislation seen as pushing too far for fear the U.S. Supreme Court would strike it down.
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