Smoking, Viagra added to abortion legislation

TOPEKA — The Kansas House on Wednesday voted to increase the cost of health insurance for elective abortions, smoking-related disease and Viagra. Then it sent the legislation back to committee.

The measure began as a mundane proposal to tweak life insurance regulation.

But supporters of a separate proposal to restrict insurance coverage of elective abortion saw an opening. They offered an amendment to prohibit insurers from covering abortion, except when necessary to save the woman's life.

Women could still get abortion coverage, but only if they paid a higher rate for optional abortion coverage. There would be no exceptions for cases of rape, incest or fetal abnormalities.

Supporters say it's wrong to make everyone pay for a procedure not all support, but opponents called the measure an attack on abortion rights.

After a contentious debate, the amendment passed 73-45.

Then the floodgates opened. Critics said that if abortion coverage shouldn't be mandated, then neither should coverage for treatments related to certain other personal decisions.

First up was smoking. Rep. Barbara Bollier, R-Mission Hills, offered an amendment to make smokers pay more for coverage of smoking-related illness. Her amendment passed 70-46.

Viagra came next. Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, said many insurers don't cover birth control. Then why should those women have to pay for "the cost of Viagra for all the old guys who want to have sex?" Mah's amendment passed 64-35.