Michigan's Republican-controlled legislature passed a bill on Wednesday that will require women to purchase additional insurance should they someday want abortion coverage. Democrats dubbed the initiative "rape insurance," as it would require a rape victim to have purchased abortion coverage prior to her rape. Michigan Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Wittmer said the bill “tells women who are raped … that they should have thought ahead and bought special insurance for it.”
The bill requires insurance plans to offer a separate rider for abortion. Women will need to purchase this rider in advance — you can't buy it after getting pregnant, even if that pregnancy was a result of rape or incest.
Debate on the floor was emotional. Wittmer confessed that she was raped in college during her speech urging her colleagues to reconsider the bill:
“I’m about to tell you something I’ve not shared with many people in my life. But over 20 years ago I was a victim of rape. And thank god it didn’t result in a pregnancy. Because I can’t imagine going through what I went through and then having to consider what to do about an unwanted pregnancy from an attacker. And as a mother with two girls, the thought that they would ever go through something like I did keeps me up at night. I thought this was all behind me. You know how tough I can be — the thought and the memory of that still haunts me. If this were law then and I had become pregnant, I would not be able to have coverage because of this. How extreme does this measure need to be? I’m not the only woman in our state that has faced that horrible circumstance. I am not enjoying talking about it. It's something I've kept hidden for a long time. I think you need to see the face of the women you are impacting by this vote today.”
Democratic State Sen. Rebekah Warren similarly pleaded with colleagues to reject the initiative. She proposed that the legislature “send this to the ballot next November for all of Michigan citizens to decide.”
The measure was brought to the legislature by a citizens' petition, signed by 4 percent of the state's population. The Right to Life petition was taken up by the body after Republican Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed an abortion coverage bill last year. Citizens' petitions are not subject to veto by the Governor.
Michigan will be the 9th state to pass legislation requiring public and private insurance plans to separate out abortion coverage.
Republican State Rep. Nancy Jenkins defended the bill. "I don’t think elective abortion should be a part of insurance," she said. "This doesn’t affect access to abortion. It will still be legal when this law takes effect. Who should be required to pay? Not Michigan taxpayers."
So really, this all goes back to Obamacare. One of the criticisms of the Affordable Care Act is that it will use tax dollars to fund abortion. Michigan's Right to Life spokeswoman Genevieve Marnon says this explicitly:
"The Affordable Care Act is upon us and because of the intrusion into the private market, tax subsidies will be used to subsidize health care plans purchased on the health-care exchanges. Unless we opt abortion out of those plans, tax-subsidized dollars will be going toward abortion coverage."
But tax subsidies specifically don't go towards funding abortions.
Democrats insist they will work to overturn the initiative. “This is a huge government overreach and Right to Life went too far again,” said Democratic State Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright. “Do not underestimate the power of a lot of angry women and the men who support us."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.