Political Runoff

A periodic look at Kansas politics
Posted August 17, 2017 05:41 pm - Updated August 18, 2017 09:35 am

Texas abortion law an echo of Kansas' bizarre debate on erectile dysfunction

Planned Parenthood supporters listen as the Sergeant At Arms for Texas Senate tells the activists that they are not allowed to enter the secure back hallway of the Senate while they are in session at the State Capitol on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 in Austin, Texas. Cities and counties in Texas couldn't partner with abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood under a bill approved by the Republican-controlled state Senate. The measure cleared the chamber 21-10 on Wednesday, after first hitting the floor in a post-midnight session. (Tamir Kalifa/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Gov. Sam Brownback and anti-abortion legislators in Kansas have new evidence they don’t play second fiddle to Texas lawmakers. 

Those in power at the Capitol in Topeka years ago wrapped their arms around legislation prohibiting insurance companies from automatically covering abortions in their health plans, except to save the life of a mother. 

Abortions for medical emergencies will remain a feature of general policies in Texas, but there is to be no exemption for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest in the Lone Star State, leading critics of the law to refer to the rider policies as “rape insurance.” 

“This bill prohibits insurance providers from forcing Texas policyholders to subsidize elective abortions,” Abbott said. 

He could have been channeling Brownback, who also forbid the state’s Medicaid program from financing abortions. 

“There are a number of people that do not believe it is appropriate to use taxpayer dollars for abortion,” said Brownback, who signed nearly 20 anti-abortion bills. “There are a number of people, they don’t want it in their insurance policy that they are paying for.” 

During House debate on the subject in 2011, Rep. Pete DeGraaf, R-Mulvane, went toe-to-toe with Rep. Barbara Bollier, R-Mission Hills. Bollier objected to DeGraaf’s plan to allow insurance coverage of abortions to preserve the life of the mother, but block coverage of abortions in instance of incest or rape. 

“I don’t think the rest of society should have to pay for abortions,” DeGraaf said. “There are plenty of insurance companies that want to make money.” 

“So,” Bollier said, “women need to plan ahead for issues that they have no control over with pregnancy?” 

“I have a spare tire in my car. I also have life insurance. I have a lot of things that I plan ahead for,” DeGraaf said. 

To irritate DeGraaf, Bollier offered an amendment requiring smokers to buy supplemental insurance for treatment of heart disease, emphysema and other ailments tied to tobacco consumption. Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, added to the commotion with an amendment mandating men purchase special insurance riders to pay for treatment of erectile dysfunction. 

In 2010, a version of the insurance-rider bill that included exemptions for incest, rape and to save the life of the woman also stirred lively commentary. 

Rep. Virgil Peck, a Tyro Republican, said it would be appropriate for Kansas to adopt a version of the bill allowing abortions to be covered by insurance only if the woman had reported a rape to law enforcement. 

“Creating a separate rider system will effectively eliminate all insurance coverage for abortion care in Kansas, even in circumstances of the health of the mother and tragic fetal indications, which I have no doubt is the intended, though unspoken, goal of this legislation,” said Sarah Gillooly, who was a lobbyist with Planned Parenthood of Kansas.