OLYMPIA — A Republican-dominated coalition in the Washington state Senate blocked a plan to require insurers to cover abortion Wednesday, voting down a procedural motion after a tense exchange over the legislation.
Some Democrats in the Senate had moved to take up an insurance bill ahead of a key cutoff, saying they planned to amend the measure to include the abortion rules.
In making her motion, Democratic Sen. Karen Keiser bemoaned that the majority GOP coalition hadn’t allowed a vote on the bill, even though it appears to have enough support to pass the chamber.
Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler led the move to block discussion and sternly responded to Keiser, saying she was “impugning” her fellow senators.
The vote suggests the measure — which already had passed the House and had the governor’s support — won’t pass the Legislature this year, though lawmakers are still scheduled to be in regular session until later this month.
Supporters say the proposal would ensure continued abortion coverage in the state once federal health care reforms take effect next year. Opponents counter that abortion insurance coverage is already widespread in the state and that the bill is unnecessary.
The bill aimed to make Washington the first state to require insurers that cover maternity care to also pay for abortions.
After the abortion bill was turned back, Republican Sen. Don Benton accused Democrats of trying to take advantage of the absence of GOP Sen. Mike Carrell, who has been ill. He said their efforts might have led Senate leaders to ask Carrell to come to the chamber, potentially jeopardizing his health.
“It’s despicable,” Benton said.