A group of Michigan lawmakers have introduced a measure to roll back a controversial abortion restriction that went into effect this past spring. The new law requires women in the state to purchase a separate insurance policy for abortion coverage, even in cases of rape or incest.
The measure has been widely derided as “rape insurance,” since it essentially forces victims of sexual assault to pay out-of-pocket for an abortion procedure unless they thought ahead and purchased a separate insurance rider. During the legislative fight over the bill, State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D) disclosed her own experience with sexual assault to explain why she was opposed to the proposed law. Now, Whitmer continues to fight back.
“This law hurts all women,” Whitmer said at a press conference this week to announce the repeal effort, which she is spearheading. “Not just women who are victims of incest or rape, or who experience the gut-wrenching effect of a miscarriage, but every single woman or man who has to make the decision about whether or not to pre-purchase abortion rider insurance for the women who are covered by their insurance, including their daughters.”
Whitmer also called the law “one of the most misogynistic laws I’ve ever seen.”
Dr. Timothy Johnson, who works at the University of Michigan’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, pointed out that the law is creating confusion among medical professionals. Some women experience serious complications that result in the loss of a wanted pregnancy, and it’s unclear whether those situations fall under the state law’s definition of an abortion. “This is creating a lot of uncertainty in the doctor-patient relationship. The last thing we want is to have to worry about who has to pay for a necessary procedure,” he said at the press conference.
The lawmakers who introduced the repeal effort acknowledged that it’s unlikely they’ll succeed in the Michigan legislature, which is dominated by abortion opponents. Indeed, now that they’ve successfully restricted women’s abortion coverage, conservative lawmakers continue to introduce other stringent anti-choice measures. Earlier this month, a group of 16 male politicians introduced a radical “heartbeat” measure that would criminalize nearly all abortions.
Still, Democrats are hoping to mobilize public opposition to the so-called “rape insurance” law. “Michigan has been an embarrassment in terms of how we treat private medical decisions between a woman and her doctor,” Libby McGaughey, vice president of public advocacy for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, said in a statement. “It’s good to finally see some reasonable legislation being introduced in Lansing.”
Michigan’s new insurance restriction has captured a lot of media attention over the past several months, but it’s hardly the only state that’s enacted this particular policy. Cutting off access to insurance coverage for abortion is an very popular method of restricting reproductive rights, and complicated laws that segregate abortion from the rest of women’s reproductive health care are in place across the country. Obamacare’s state-level exchanges have introduced a new avenue for abortion opponents to further this artificial divide.