Coverage for reproductive care in the northwestern United States is just one signature away from a major policy change. On Saturday, Washington state legislators passed a bill that would require insurance companies to cover elective abortions and contraceptives. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign off on the legislation, according to the Associated Press.
The bill applies to health insurance companies who operate in Washington and who provide plans that include maternity care. The state Senate, which initially passed the bill in January, voted 27 to 22 on Saturday to concur on changes made by the House, allowing it to go to the governor.
"No woman should have to seek or pay for an additional rider or copay or have any other means of delay or financial burden for this coverage," said state Sen. Steve Hobbs during floor debate on the bill; Hobbs was a sponsor of the bill.
As for the bill itself, it is sweeping and clear. According to the Associated Press, the bill would require plans renewed or beginning after Jan. 1, 2019 to provide, without deductibles, coverage for contraceptives — including everything from birth control pills to IUDs. The plans would also have to cover procedures like voluntary sterilization and any associated consultation meetings. State health insurers, who are not allowed to use federal funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, will reportedly be required to segregate all costs associated with providing abortions into different accounts.
Opponents to the bill argue that it is unfair that employers who provide health insurance would have to cover costs associated with abortion, even if they are religiously opposed to them. However, Hobbs argued that the new health care plan regulations "should be part of basic women's primary health."
Gov. Inslee has a long track record for supporting abortion rights. As a congressman, he repeatedly voted against any measure which would tamper with a woman's right to choose whether or not she wanted to see a pregnancy to term. In turn, he has consistently voted in favor of expanding those rights when applicable.
While his state gears up to set an example for progressive policymakers legislating health care, Inslee has also recently made headlines as a politician willing to go head-to-head with President Trump. A week ago, video footage showing Inslee pushing back against Trump's proposal to arm a percentage of teachers as a way to protect students from school shootings.
In defending his proposition at a meeting with 39 of the country's governors, Trump said that he was in favor of "arming a small portion [of teachers] that are very gun adept... You have a gun free zone, it's like an invitation for these very sick people to go there." He suggested that if some teachers were armed, shooters would not try to enter schools.
Inslee, for his part, was undeterred. Standing up, he explained to Trump that after speaking to educators and law enforcement, he believed the proposal was an unfavorable idea. As the video continued and as Inslee continued to explain, Trump crossed his arms and stopped responding.
"Let me just suggest that whatever percentage it is... I have listened to the people who would be affected by that... and they don't want to do that in any percentage," Inslee said.
Inslee is one of the many Democrats who has been floated among commentators as a potential presidential candidate for the 2020 election. While a large handful of hopefuls have been tossed around for the last year, it is, of course, way too soon to call. That being said, Inslee has recently demonstrated his capacity to make a name for himself on the national stage. Setting a high standard for women's access to health care would fall right in line with that pattern.