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13 states prohibit abortion coverage in health exchanges, report says

The National Women’s Law Center recently released a report that lists all statewide measures prohibiting abortion coverage in state health care exchanges. #

Florida joined Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia this year in enacting such legislation. The report shows that many of the bills have “narrow exceptions for women’s health” and have, in effect, taken health benefits away from women. #

These laws were the result of a provision in last year’s health care reform law that allows states to ban the coverage of abortion in the exchanges the law creates. This provision was the result of Bart Stupak’s failed attempt to stall the legislation in an effort to include an all-out ban on abortion coverage in any of the exchanges the law creates. #

However, some states have enacted laws that are significantly more austere than Stupak’s amendment, which provides exceptions for the ban. #

According to the Women’s Law Center report, Oklahoma, for example, “clarified that its insurance ban applies to exchanges and narrowed it so that women who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest will no longer be able to obtain insurance coverage of abortion.” #

While most states contain exceptions for extreme situations, such as rape or incest or when a woman’s life is in danger, Louisiana and Tennessee do not. #

Florida’s law (which was recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott) does provide exceptions for cases of rape, incest and when the women’s life is in danger. However, efforts to also include an exception for a woman who faces a “serious risk to her health” failed right before the bill received its final vote. The provision received bipartisan support. #

According to the report, the absence of these exceptions are dangerous to women’s health: #

Only five bills have limited, narrow exceptions for women’s health. This means that almost all of the bans prohibit insurance coverage for abortions that would protect women from serious, permanent, and even life-shortening health conditions. For example, a woman for whom continuing the pregnancy will result in permanent damage to her health, such as damage to her heart, lungs, or kidneys or a pregnant woman who is diagnosed with cancer and must undergo chemotherapy will not have insurance coverage for these medically necessary abortions. In addition, some women without insurance coverage of abortion will be forced to postpone abortion care while attempting to find the necessary funds. Although abortion is an extremely safe procedure, delays in obtaining care increase the health risks of the procedure. #

The report also explains that these laws impose “high out-of-pocket costs for these services” for a lot of women and that these laws only worsen barriers to proper health care. #

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