When Lisa Moore moved to Texas in 1991, its inclusivity attracted her, but with increasingly restrictive reproductive healthcare, she no longer feels this way today.
“(It was) a place where I, a faculty member who’d grown up in another country, really wanted to be,” said Moore, director of the LGBTQ+ studies program. “(Now) it’s hard to ask someone to move here when they don’t have access to the full range of health care they may need.”
Following the June Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling, Moore and other faculty wondered how the ruling would affect them. In September, another faculty member sent her the University Human Resources page, which informed them that they no longer had abortion insurance — and it had been this way for longer than they realized.
Moore was soon informed that their general insurance package stopped covering abortion in 2017, when Texas banned insurers from including abortion coverage in comprehensive health insurance plans, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. However, many faculty members were unaware of this insurance change from 2017.
“Not a lot of faculty, including well-informed faculty leaders, were aware this information was available,” Moore said. “With a big employer like UT, you would think (we) would be able to negotiate for accessible, complete health care coverage. But that has not been the (case).”
“We would have assumed (our insurance) would cover a full range of reproductive health care, since this is supposed to be good insurance,” Moore said. “The anti-abortion lobby has been so tenacious and trying to chip away at rights. I’m not surprised to learn that (coverage) … had been taken away without much fanfare.”
University faculty members have UT Select insurance, a self-funded plan administered by BlueCross and BlueShield of Texasa nationwide health insurer.
Full-time faculty can access insurance services for free, with additional family costs to their plan. Services include birth control and reproductive health services via Ovia Health and Progynybut these services only cover abortion in certain life-threatening cases allowed within HB 1280.
Dana Johnson, a public policy graduate student, came to Texas because it was “the place to be involved in this work.” She said confusing insurance plans add a layer of difficulty to living in Austin.
“When you’re in that moment of trying to find abortion care and figure out your next steps, insurance is just one of many things you need to figure out, and it’s hard,” Johnson said.
Lauren Gutterman, an associate American studies professor, considered herself grateful that her partner underwent fertility treatment before the 2017 insurance change, because they would’ve had insurance coverage if anything went wrong in the process.
“The University is not doing a great job of communicating,” Gutterman said. “It also means I wasn’t doing a great job educating myself.”
Moore said the increasingly restrictive rulings are “heartbreaking.”
“The students in my classes right now have less access to abortions than I did when I was a teenager in the 1980s,” Moore said. “One in four people of childbearing age in (the) United States have an abortion at some point in their reproductive lives. It’s health care.”