Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker reportedly signed a bill on Tuesday that bans health insurance for the state's public employees from covering abortion services, except in cases of rape, incest or medical necessity to save the mother's life.
This makes Wisconsin the 22nd state with a law of this kind, which extends to municipal employees in these places.
Barring abortion coverage for public employees is one of the most popular abortion restrictions in the years since Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion organization that tracks reproductive rights around the world.
“It is designed to steer a patient to continue a pregnancy rather than allowing the pregnant person to make the best health care decision,” says Elizabeth Nash, state policy expert for the Guttmacher Institute.
With the exception of Colorado -- which is purple and has had a ban on abortions for public employees' insurance plans since the 1980s -- most of the states with a law like Wisconsin's are solidly conservative. Many of them were passed years ago. Kansas and Georgia are two of the most recent states to approve the ban -- in 2011 and 2013, respectively.
Republicans believe that no tax dollars should go to abortion services, and Democrats believe that abortion services should be affordable and easily accessible to all women.
Wisconsin state Sen. David Craig, a sponsor of the bill, said it isn’t designed necessarily to prevent abortions -- just places restrictions on who pays for them, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
When the bill was first introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature in 2013, it was met with fierce resistance from Democrats. State Sen. Jon Erpenbach said he’d unleash “all hell” if the Legislature voted on the bill. The GOP-controlled Legislature abandoned it then but took up the issue again this session where it passed the Assembly and Senate along party lines.
It isn’t just public employees' insurance plans that have restrictions on abortion coverage: 26 states don’t offer abortion services for plans sold on their health insurance exchanges, and 11 states prohibit abortion coverage for all private insurance plans.
Still, research shows that either women don’t know their insurance would cover an abortion or they choose not to use it. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 53 percent of women pay for an abortion out-of-pocket -- regardless of whether their insurance covers it.