Feb. 18--CONCORD -- Abortion rights advocates said insurers that cover maternity care should have to reimburse consumers who terminate a pregnancy.
Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D-Nashua, said she decided to pursue what she's called the Women's Reproductive Health Parity Act of 2020 (SB 486) in response to two rules that President Donald Trump's administration has been crafting that create more government restrictions on abortions.
"I think we need this bill to create stability for insurers and consumers alike," Rosenwald told the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday.
The two rules would require health insurers to send out bills to consumers that separate out any abortion-related services and compel companies that sell on the Obamacare marketplace to offer a plan without abortion coverage if they are marketing plans that reimburse for it.
"These rules will likely result in loss of coverage for many," said Sabrina Dunlap, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
"This bill supports timely, affordable and respectable reproductive care."
But abortion opponents maintain it would violate religious liberty for individuals who are opposed to paying for insurance that covers abortion.
"This bill is not about parity; it is not about money. This is about religious liberty and conscience rights," said Ellen Kolb with Cornerstone Action.
"This bill is guaranteed to engage the state in litigation."
The Trump administration last month threatened to withhold federal money from the state of California because it adopted a similar measure.
Jeanne Hruska, political director with the Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire said this bill is written to withstand any legal challenge.
"The right to an abortion is only valid if you can financially access it," Hruska said.
As a safeguard, the bill says if this put the state at risk of losing any federal money, the health and human services commissioner shall grant an exemption to the extent needed to keep receiving those dollars.
"We support religious freedom but it does not give you permission to discriminate," Hruska said.
Supporters stressed this bill would not apply to the federal Medicaid program which since 2004 has included anti-abortion language.
It would also have no bearing on coverage from self-insured plans that many large employers use, including the state of New Hampshire for all its employees.
Dunlap said most plans in the commercial market do include coverage for abortions.
"This would basically be solidifying the status quo so it shouldn't increase costs," Dunlap said.
Jennifer Frizzell with the New Hampshire Women's Foundation said national studies have concluded abortion coverage in plans reduces overall insurance cost as it's far more expensive to carry a baby to term.
Robert Dunn, a lobbyist with the Roman Catholic Diocese of New Hampshire, urged the Senate panel to reject it.
"The bill wrongly equates health care to abortion care," said Dunn.
"Abortion treats pregnancy as if it is a disease to be cured and it involves the intentional taking of a life. That is not health care."
Thomas Walton of Hollis said he's considering moving his two small businesses to another state after learning recently that New Hampshire has among the lowest fertility rate in the country.
"I would never start my company in a state where we had the conditions we have right now," Walton added.
"The international Planned Parenthood juggernaut is taking over the entire politics of the state."
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