Michigan's sweeping "rape insurance" law goes into effect

The new law forces individuals or businesses to purchase costly additional insurance to cover abortion care

Published March 13, 2014 2:21PM (EDT)

  (AP/Beck Diefenbach)
(AP/Beck Diefenbach)

A new Michigan law forcing individuals or businesses to purchase costly additional insurance to cover abortion care went into effect Thursday.

The law applies to private health plans in the state, including plans secured through the state health exchange and employer plans. If a person does not purchase the additional insurance, then they will be forced to pay out of pocket for the procedure if they need to access abortion care. As it stands, very few insurance plans cover abortion care; the new law will likely further drive down the already tiny fraction of abortions covered by health insurance in the state, potentially putting the procedure financially out of reach for many people.

There were approximately 23,000 abortions performed in Michigan last year, and barely 3 percent of them were covered by insurance.

As Jessica Valenti at the Nation rightly pointed out at the time the measure first passed the Republican-controlled Legislature, eliminating insurance coverage for abortion will have devastating consequences for all people who need abortion care, which is essential and basic medical care. There is no hierarchy of "good" abortions or "bad" abortions. But pro-choice lawmakers in Michigan and much of the national coverage has focused on what many see as the most extreme feature of the law -- its lack of exceptions for survivors of rape or incest.

The lack of exceptions has led many to call the law "rape insurance."

At the time of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said she was raped as a college student and couldn't imagine having to face the additional trauma of such a law had she gotten pregnant. She asked her "Republican colleagues to see the face of the women they’re hurting by their actions today.”

“Thank God I didn’t get pregnant as a result of my own attack,” she continued, “but I can’t even begin to imagine now having to think about the same thing happening to my own daughters.”

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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