Full sessions of the New Hampshire legislature are back in business after a 12- week recess due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Why not adjourn until next January? Because apparently there are some bills the current leadership considers important enough to rush along, short-circuiting ordinary procedure. Case in point: mandating that some health insurance policies cover abortion.
inventing a bill, or a short course in non-germane amendments
SB 486, misleadingly entitled “relative to insurance plans that cover maternity benefits,” was passed by the Senate last March in the last session before the COVID recess. The House has not taken up the bill due to the recess, and thanks to a procedural vote on June 11, the House is not likely to take it up now. (More about that later.)
So abortion advocates in the Senate Commerce Committee did something creative: they took an existing House bill on another subject (HB 685, insurance coverage for ambulance services) and amended it to remove the original subject matter entirely and replace it with the text of SB 486. The full Senate is likely to vote on the new-and-not-improved HB 685 on Tuesday, June 16.
But when was the hearing, you ask? The hearing AND the Senate Commerce Committee vote on HB 685 as amended was on June 11, via videoconference and YouTube. If you blinked, you missed it.
“parity” = “you gotta pay”
A quick review, from this blog’s coverage of SB 486 last March, keeping in mind that HB 685 as amended by the Commerce committee now contains the same mandate as SB 486:
SB 486 will force some health insurance plans that cover maternity benefits to cover abortion as well. Committee recommendation is “ought to pass,” party-line vote. SB 486 deserves an “inexpedient to legislate” vote. [Editor’s note: the Senate later passed the bill along party lines, Democrats in the majority.] Testimony at the hearing affirmed that most health insurance policies written in New Hampshire already cover abortion. That’s not enough for abortion advocates. They say “parity” demands that abortion coverage be mandated, since abortion is health care, too. Only it isn’t. For another view, you can read Planned Parenthood’s glowing endorsement of the bill.leavenfortheloaf.com, March 9, 2020
If SB 486 or HB 685 (as amended) were to become law, you would be helping to subsidize abortion if you are an insurance provider covered by the bill, if you are a business owner who offers health insurance as a benefit to employees under a policy covered by this bill, and if you are an individual paying premiums for a policy covered by this bill.
Conscience rights? Not persuasive to the current Commerce Committee majority.
Remember the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare? That was just the preview. Now abortion advocates at the state level want to mandate abortion coverage in health insurance policies. While these bills purport to apply to only certain policies, the fact is that they open the door to treating abortion as a form of health care that must be covered by all health insurance policies that offer maternity coverage.
timing is everything
If the Senate passes the amended HB 685 at its June 16 session, as seems likely, then it will go to the House – not for a hearing, mind you. HB 685 already had a House hearing before crossover in March, on its original subject. Instead, the House would merely have to vote to concur with the Senate changes in order to send HB 685 to the Governor for his signature.
The House’s last session is June 30, so the clock is ticking.
what the…or why are there two bills?
Supporters of the original abortion mandate bill correctly surmised that the House would not vote to extend its calendar past June 30. (Basically, both chambers are trying to catch up on three missed months in three weeks.) SB 486’s supporters were afraid there wouldn’t be time for the House to go through its usual procedure with bills received from the Senate, including a public hearing.
So to guarantee that an abortion insurance mandate would get a House vote, the Senate Commerce Committee took the path of completely re-writing a bill that had already gone through the House: HB 685. If the Senate votes to pass the amended bill, all the House will have to do is vote to agree or disagree with the amendment. The current pro-abortion majority in Senate and House make passage a near-certainty.
what you can do
Civics lesson, free of charge: Never assume a legislator knows what you want, and never let a legislator say you weren’t heard from.
If you oppose HB 685 as amended by the Senate Commerce Committee, contact your senator and say so, before June 16.
Would Governor Sununu sign an abortion insurance mandate if it came to his desk? Stay tuned.