Texas House passes abortion insurance ban


With passage, House and Senate have approved separate bills to ban insurance plan coverage of most abortions.

GOP abortion opponents decry slow progress on a separate bill to prohibit contracts with abortion providers.

The Texas House gave final approval Wednesday to a bill that would prohibit insurance coverage for most abortions.

House Bill 214 next goes to the Senate, which two weeks ago passed identical legislation to ban abortion coverage in private insurance plans as well as insurance offered to state employees and under the Affordable Care Act. One of those bills will need approval from both houses before being sent to Gov. Greg Abbott, who requested the legislation.

Several Republican abortion opponents took little time to celebrate, however, focusing instead on an apparently stalled bill that would prohibit local governments from contracting with, or directing taxpayer money to, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

Speaking from the House floor, Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, asked Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, if there was a way to force action on House Bill 14. Although approved by the House State Affairs Committee two weeks ago, a committee report has not yet been filed with the Calendars Committee, which schedules bills for floor votes.

The unusually long delay appears to be an attempt to torpedo a bill that has 81 House co-authors and is an Abbott priority, Stickland said.

“What can we do to force them to physically hand it to the Calendars Committee, because they don’t appear ready to do so,” he asked.

FIRST READING: This is the way the special session ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.

Straus offered no direction beyond suggesting that Stickland talk to committee leaders to determine the cause of the holdup.

Blaming the delay on by Rep. Byron Cook, the Republican chairman of State Affairs, Stickland asked if committee chairmen who step out of line could be removed by the House speaker. “Not by this speaker, no,” Straus replied.

Under the insurance bill that was approved without discussion on a largely party-line vote Wednesday, women who want abortion medical coverage would have to buy a supplemental plan, if offered by their insurer.

Abortions needed to save a woman’s life would be exempt. During Tuesday’s initial debate on the bill, Republicans defeated Democratic amendments that also would have excluded pregnancies from rape or incest and fetuses with fatal conditions.

During the 30-day special session, the House has passed two other abortion-related bills:

• HB 13, which would require more rigorous reporting of medical complications after an abortion, is still pending in a Senate committee. The Senate approved a nearly identical bill on July 25, but the House has not acted on it.

• HB 215, increasing the reporting on minors who receive an abortion, passed the House on Friday. The Senate passed a similar bill July 25. As yet, neither chamber has acted on the other’s bill.

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