Michigan lawmakers want to force women to take out "special" insurance for abortion

The ban on private insurance coverage contains no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest

Published December 3, 2013 6:27PM (EST)

                                           (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Michigan's Republican-controlled Legislature is set to vote on a measure to ban abortion coverage from all health insurance plans, requiring women to purchase a separate policy to cover the procedure.

The state election board certified Monday that anti-choice group Right to Life of Michigan collected the necessary signatures to put the measure before lawmakers, a majority of whom support the ban.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed an identical ban on abortion coverage last year, saying the measure "went too far," but this time Michigan Right to Life introduced the restriction through a rarely used initiative petition, which can become law without executive action by the governor. The ban contains no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

The move to bypass Snyder's veto has been roundly criticized by reproductive health advocates, who have called the proposal an attempt to force women to purchase "rape insurance."

“You couldn’t buy a rider once you were pregnant to have [an abortion] covered,” Meghan Groen, director of government relations for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, told RH Reality Check. “It’s not like, oh, I was raped and so now I’ll buy this rider. Nobody is anticipating being a victim of crime.”

"It’s unconscionable that Right to Life has launched a campaign against women’s rights by finding a loophole in the law and skirting a signature from the governor,” Jessica Tramontana, communications director for Progress Michigan, said in a statement on the proposal. “The president of Right to Life went as far as describing this extra insurance like buying coverage for a 'flood or a car accident.' Rape is not an accident."

The measure itself is also incredibly deceptive, as Michigan and federal law prevent taxpayer dollars from funding abortion care. But antiabortion activists have circulated the false idea that the Affordable Care Act will change the status quo. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what this actually does,” she added.

A majority of Michigan voters appear to oppose the measure, and identical proposals have been vetoed -- twice -- by Republican governors, but advocates say the state Legislature has taken an extreme rightward turn and may push the measure through despite the lack of support.

“This is a very Republican, very right-wing Michigan legislature interfering in the marketplace in ways they previously would scream and yell about," Shelli Weisberg, legislative director for American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, told RH Reality Check.

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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Abortion Abortion Rights Extremists Insurance Michigan Reproductive Health Care Republicans Women's Rights