Most Butler County jurisdictions have abortion benefit with conditions

Ann Becker, West Chester Twp. trustee
Ann Becker, West Chester Twp. trustee

After learning state law prohibits townships from paying for elective abortions, West Chester Twp. trustees unanimously approved a health insurance policy renewal that includes coverage but with conditions.

West Chester trustees Ann Becker and Mark Welch two weeks ago refused to renew the township’s health insurance contract with Aetna because they discovered it offered full abortion coverage.

Becker told the Journal-News she voted with her fellow trustees Tuesday to provide abortion coverage in instances of rape, incest or if the mother’s health is at risk.

“That’s acceptable to me,” she said. “Motherhood is a choice, so when you choose motherhood, that’s the responsibility of the family. But if you don’t choose to be a mother, then that’s a more difficult decision for the family, for the person, for woman.”

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Previously she said she couldn’t approve the insurance benefit on “moral grounds.”

Mark Welch said his stance all along has been the three exceptions should be allowed so he changed his vote this time. He said he still opposes abortion.

“When we looked into it and we found out we were actually breaking the law, and the law stated those three exceptions for abortion, then I was OK with that,” Welch said. “I don’t agree with abortion on demand. You’ve got to defend the defenseless and that’s what these babies are to me.”

When the trustees rejected the renewal, township Administrator Larry Burks said if they must re-bid the contract, the 4.99 percent price increase could go as high as 14 percent with another carrier. That’s a difference of $221,177 versus $620,343 on the $4 million-plus contract.

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The contract revision just approved did not impact the 5 percent price increase.

Trustee Lee Wong voted in favor of the contract renewal both times and was slightly concerned they might get sued by the union if they took the benefit away. He said that worry has evaporated.

“It was not an issue with the union because it is an Ohio law,” Wong said.

A poll of other jurisdictions in the county shows the larger governments here have policies like the one West Chester Twp. just adopted — the county, Fairfield Twp. and Middletown — but Fairfield and Liberty Twp. only cover the procedure if the mother’s life is in danger. Hamilton and Oxford cover both therapeutic and elective abortions.

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Oxford City Manager Doug Elliott said since it is a home rule community, he believes it is exempt from the law that says public dollars cannot be spent on non-therapeutic abortions.

“I understand there is Ohio case law that salaries of municipal officers and employees is a matter of local self-government,”Elliott said. “I should think that the health benefits provided by a local government to its employees is also a matter of local self-government. I will ask the city attorney to review and advise.”

Meg Wittman, executive director of Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, initially commended the trustees two weeks ago, but she has since tempered that praise.

“We have been pleased to see West Chester Twp. trustees Becker and Welch challenge the funding of abortion through the township’s health care plan,” she said. “Although some changes were made, we are still disappointed that the plan covers abortion in any way.”

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