Just yesterday afternoon, Michigan passed a new law that would require the purchase of coverage for elective abortion in a health care plan. This law will take effect in March, and will force women and employers to purchase a separate abortion rider if they would like the procedure covered, even in cases of rape and incest. The “Abortion Opt Out Act” was passed to prevent all insurance plans in the state from covering abortion unless the woman’s life is in danger. Eight states have passed similar laws banning the insurance coverage of abortion but only two of them have actually made the abortion rider available to women. Another 15 states prohibit the coverage in insurance purchased through the health exchanges set up through the Affordable Care Act.
The Michigan State Legislature, which is 80% comprised of men, first passed the measure last year. However, Governor Rick Snyder (R) vetoed it, stating that he does not “believe it is appropriate to tell a woman who becomes pregnant due to a rape that she needed to select elective insurance coverage.” However, the anti-abortion group Right to Life of Michigan was able to collect 315,477 signatures — only about 4% of the state’s voters — on a petition this year to force a second vote on the measure. Having been passed by both chambers, the bill automatically becomes law now, even without the Governor’s approval.
State Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, urged her colleagues to reject the proposal and “send this to the ballot next November for all of Michigan citizens to decide.” The measure still passed despite an emotionally- charged debate that included highly personal stories from several women in the Legislature. One of the most notable was an admission by Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, that she was raped 20 years ago while she was in college. One in four college women report surviving rape (15 percent) or attempted rape (12 percent) since their fourteenth birthday. With such an extreme measure in place, it actually sends the message to potential victims that in the case of rape they should’ve thought ahead and actually planned for it.
The Senate passed the law on a 27-11 vote, with all Republicans and Sen. Tupac Hunter, D-Detroit, supporting the bill and the rest of the Democrats voting against it. In the House, the vote was closer, 62-47. All the Republicans and two Democrats, Terry Brown, of Pigeon and Charles Brunner, Bay City, as well as Independent John Olumba of Detroit, voted for the bill.
A motion to give the bill immediate effect, which requires a two-thirds majority, failed on a 61-48 vote. That means the law will go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.