Hearing on controversial abortion-mandate bill set for this afternoon

Padden says bill is ‘unnecessary, unconstitutional and could prove costly for state’

Mike PaddenThe Senate Ways and Means Committee will hold a public hearing at 3:30 p.m. today on House Bill 2330, a controversial measure that would require private-insurance plans which provide maternity coverage to also pay for elective abortions.

“Proponents of this legislation are jeopardizing nearly six billion dollars’ worth of revenue from the federal government through their support of this bill, which almost certainly constitutes a violation of federal law,” said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley and a chief opponent of the measure.

Padden, along with other Senate Republicans, sent a letter to Governor Gregoire in late January detailing some possible ramifications of HB 2330 (and its Senate companion bill, SB 6185). It warns of the conflict between HB 2330 and a provision in the federal omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2055) passed in December, specifically within the “Department of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012”:

(1)   None of the funds made available in this Act may be made available… to a State or local government, if such government subjects any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.

(2)   In this subsection, the term “health care entity” includes an individual physician or other health care professional, a hospital, a provider-sponsored organization, a health maintenance organization, a health insurance plan, or any other kind of health care facility, organization, or plan.

Padden recently asked the non-partisan staff of the Senate Ways and Means Committee to estimate the amount of federal funds that would be in jeopardy if the abortion mandate became law and was found to violate the provision above (known collectively as the Hyde/Weldon amendment).  Fiscal analysts for the committee estimated that Washington’s annual federal revenue under the Labor/HHS federal appropriations act is $6 billion and concluded it all would be at risk under the Hyde/Weldon amendment, if triggered by HB 2330.

Even if HB 2330 is proven not to violate Hyde/Weldon, Padden believes the mandate would cause the state to spend years in court attempting to defend the bill.

“We know this bill would conflict with the Hyde Amendment, which says no federal dollars can go towards paying for abortions, and would blatantly violate the Weldon amendment, which prohibits federal funds from going to any state that discriminates against an insurance entity because it does not cover abortion; this is exactly what this bill would do,” said Padden.

“Budget considerations aside, I am also concerned that HB 2330 violates the religious liberty of Washingtonians. This bill is about as far away from being pro-choice as any mandate could be, in that it would force private insurers to offer coverage for abortions.

“Many Washington citizens view elective abortion as the taking of innocent human life, and feel that it is morally repugnant to force them to pay for abortion through increased health-care premiums, provide it through the health-care packages they provide employees or cover it through the insurance policies they offer for sale.”

The Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing on ESHB 2330 will be held at 3:30 p.m. today in Senate Hearing Room 4.