Many in Michigan won't be able to buy "rape insurance" because individual plans don't offer it

Insult to injury for reproductive rights: There are no individual providers currently offering new abortion riders

By Katie McDonough
March 18, 2014 9:38PM (UTC)
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(AP/Susan Walsh)

A law requiring people and businesses in Michigan to take out an additional rider to cover abortion care went into effect last week, and there is more troubling news about the new regulation.

As reported by the Detroit Free Press, there are currently no insurance providers offering abortion riders to new customers on the private marketplace, meaning that people who purchases insurance as individuals will have zero access to coverage for abortion care, putting abortion financially out of reach for many in the state.


“People who buy coverage for themselves and their families will not find this coverage,” Marianne Udow-Phillips of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation told the Detroit Free Press. “It will not be available to them.”

Finding an insurer that offered coverage for abortion services was already a challenge in Michigan -- as it is across much of the country -- and stigma against the procedure compels many people seeking care to do so outside their insurance network, but the Michigan law stands to make a bad situation worse.

The abortion rider law, which opponents have dubbed "rape insurance" because it lacks exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest, impacts all people in the state who need and deserve basic reproductive healthcare, including, as Democratic state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer pointed out, people whose pregnancies threaten their life and health, as well as anyone trying to exercise bodily autonomy and their constitutional right to abortion.


Cost matters, which is precisely why anti-choice lawmakers have targeted insurance coverage for abortion care as well as introduced measures to drive up the cost of the procedure in their assault on reproductive rights.

The Hyde Amendment already denies federal Medicaid funding for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or life of the patient, and a host of states impose similar restrictions on financial assistance for the procedure. Mandatory ultrasound laws, which have become popular with Republican-controlled state legislatures, do not change people's minds when seeking abortion care, but they do drive up the cost of services by requiring doctors to present for multiple visits.

“In all other aspects of health care, the trend is to use less expensive personnel to perform some patient procedures to both drive down health care costs and save higher-skilled personnel for more complicated activities,” Tracy Weitz, director of the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health program at the University of California, San Francisco, recently explained. “The reverse trend in abortion care is deliberate and is meant to make women opt out of abortion, not because of some information the ultrasound gives them, but because abortion is no longer affordable.”


The immediate impact in Michigan may not be dramatic (only 3 percent of abortions performed in the state last year were covered by insurance), but the escalating trend of putting abortion financially out of reach for people across the country is alarming -- and shows no signs of slowing.

h/t RH Reality Check

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

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