TORONTO – Republican Michigan state legislators approved a controversial bill Wednesday that bans insurance plans from covering abortion unless a women’s life is in danger.
Taking effect in March, those who want health insurance coverage, including private, for abortions—including in cases of rape and incest—will be required to buy an extra policies known as riders.
Opponents – male and female – have labeled the bill “rape insurance,” arguing the law will force some women to anticipate the possibility of being raped by purchasing the extra abortion insurance ahead of time.
It is not clear whether a “rider” can be purchased if the insurer is already pregnant nor is it clear if insurers will actually offer such extra policies.
Despite the objections of both Michigan’s Democratic minority and the veto of the Republican governor Rick Snyder, the citizens’ initiative was approved 62-47 by the House and 27-11 in the Senate and will become law in March.
The anti-abortion group Right to Life collected more than 300,000 signatures to put the legislation before lawmakers. Bills that are introduced in Michigan can become law without the governor’s signature or approval if they are introduced through a citizen’s petition.
State Republican David Knezek was among the politicians to also condemn the law.
“This body made up of 80 per cent men will make a decision that will impact 100 per cent of women,” he said.
During the debate, Democratic Senate minority leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing shared her own experience surviving sexual assault.
Watch the video below: U.S. Democratic Senator Whitmer shares personal story
“For those you who want to act aghast that I’d use a term like ‘rape insurance’ to describe the proposal here in front of us, you should be even more offended that it’s an absolutely accurate description of what this proposal requires,” said Whitmer.
“This tells women that were raped and became pregnant that they should have bought special insurance for it. By moving forward on this initiative, Senate Republicans want to essentially require Michigan women to plan ahead and financially invest in healthcare coverage for potentially having their bodies violated and assaulted.”
“Make no mistake, this is anything but a citizens’ initiative,” she said. “It’s a special interest group’s perverted dream come true.”
Critics state the restrictions on abortion insurance will make it difficult for women who wish to go through the procedure without the knowledge of their family, employer or insurance company.
Those who use Michigan’s version of Medicaid, a health program for families and individuals with low incomes and resources, are already required to pay for abortions except in circumstances where their life is at risk or in cases of rape or incest.
Supporters of the law say those who object to abortion should “not be forced to help pay for it in their insurance premiums.”
“No matter how one frames the issue before us, abortion is an individual choice,” said State Rep. Amanda Price during the debate. “”As such, it is up to each individual to make the decision how they will pay for such procedures.”
The law affects all insurances, including those provided by state or federal governments and private insurance.
Michigan is now among nine states in the U.S. to restrict private plans from covering the procedure. In Utah, the state currently does not provide supplemental coverage of elective abortions but allows general health insurance plans to cover the procedure if the woman’s life and health are in danger or in cases of rape, incest or fetal impairment.
In a released statement, Right to Life president Barbara Listing thanked those who signed the petitions and supported the abortion insurance.
“Abortion is not true health care and people who object will not have to contribute their own tax dollars or insurance premiums for elective abortions,” said the statement. “We applaud the Michigan legislators who stood firm in their resolve and voted to ensure no person is forced to fund the deliberate taking of an innocent human life in the name of health care.”
State Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright said that she is in the works of creating another petition that will seek to overturn the new law.
“Do not under estimate the power of a lot of angry women and the men who support us,” said said during the debate in House.
With files from The Associated Press
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