Abortion, Health Insurance, and the States

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There’s been a bit of confusion over what, exactly, health care reform has allowed states to do in terms of regulating health insurance coverage. Over at Wonk Room, Igor Volsky notes that the law “gives states the option of banning private insurers from providing abortion coverage to women within the exchange.” It’s true that states have the power to ban abortion coverage, and some states are taking advantage of it—Tennessee is moving to ban abortion coverage on its exchanges—but it’s nothing new.

Since 1945, the states have had the right to pass laws regulating insurance, including banning abortion. Some of them even did it: according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota, and Oklahoma have bills on the books limiting health insurance coverage of abortion. Oklahoma lets insurers cover abortions in cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is endangered; the other four states only allow insurers to cover abortions if the life of the mother is endangered.

When it comes to abortion and insurance regulation, the health care bill as signed by President Obama essentially restates the provisions of the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act. States used to have the power to ban abortion coverage, and they still do. Health care reform may have made conservative states more likely to prohibit abortion coverage by drawing attention to the issue, but it didn’t enhance their powers to do so. Nothing to see here; move along, please.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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