Michigan lawmakers are currently deciding whether to advance a bill that would require women in the state to purchase a separate insurance policy for abortion coverage, even in cases of rape or incest. If it’s approved, Michigan would join a long list of other states that have attacked abortion access by preventing women from using their own insurance to pay for it.
The debate over the legislation has heated up this week, particularly since the measure would deny abortion coverage even to women who have become pregnant as a result of rape. Although the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that rape victims should have access to legal abortion services, lawmakers continue to propose policies that would have callous implications for individuals who have been sexually assaulted.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) vetoed the proposed insurance ban last year for exactly this reason — pointing out that it would require rape victims to pay for the total cost of their abortion procedure out-of-pocket, unless they had thought ahead and purchased a separate insurance rider for abortion services. “I don’t believe it is appropriate to tell a woman who becomes pregnant due to a rape that she needed to select elective insurance coverage,” Snyder noted when he rejected the bill last December.
But Michigan’s anti-choice community disagrees. Earlier this year, when advocating for the proposed legislation, a prominent anti-choice leader in Michigan suggested that rape is like a car accident and it’s appropriate to require women to buy “extra insurance” to prepare for it. After Snyder’s veto, abortion opponents decided to simply circumvent the governor and collect enough signatures to provoke a “citizen-initiated” vote on the measure. That petition was successful, and the measure headed to the legislature on Tuesday.
Lawmakers now have 40 days — not including the upcoming holiday break — to act on the measure. If they don’t take any action, the issue will be placed on the 2014 ballot for a statewide vote. If the legislature approves it, on the other hand, the bill will immediately become law — even without Snyder’s signature.
Leading Democrats in the legislature are blasting the proposed measure. “Forcing women to decide whether they want to buy ‘rape insurance’ and even compelling parents to make the unfathomable decision about whether to buy it for their daughters is truly despicable,” State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D) said in a press release on Monday. “Requiring Michigan women to plan ahead for an unplanned pregnancy is not only illogical, it’s one of the most misogynistic proposals I have ever seen in the Michigan Legislature.”
But abortion opponents aren’t giving up. Save the 1, a national anti-choice group that advocates for abortion restrictions without exceptions, organized a press conference at the Michigan Capitol on Tuesday to make the point that rape victims shouldn’t ever have the option of choosing abortion. A group of adults who were conceived as a result of rape argued that “no child deserves to be punished for the crimes of their father.”
The issue of rape and abortion access has become particularly contentious over the past year, after several Republican lawmakers have made controversial comments on the subject. Last August, former Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) asserted that pregnancies resulting from rape are very rare because the female body “has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” And since then, other GOP politicians have suggested that pregnancies from rape are a “gift from God,” mocked rape exceptions as “little gotcha amendments,” and suggested abortion access for rape victims is unnecessary because ending a pregnancy will “put more violence on a woman’s body.”