Decline to sign
Graphic by Anne C. Savage
NOTE: This post has been updated. See below.
It’s not often that less than 3% of a state’s citizens get to create new law without having to let the voters decide or the governor to sign it into law but that is exactly what’s about to happen in Michigan. Yesterday, the State Board of Canvasser approved petition language submitted by Right to Life of Michigan that would force women to purchase a separate rider on their insurance to cover abortion. Not just government-subsidized or government provided health insurance. ALL health insurance. I’m calling it the “Plan Ahead for Your Abortion” law. If Right to Life can get only 258,088 in 6 months, the measure goes to the legislature which has 40 days to approve it. If they do, and they will, it becomes law. The rest of Michigan voters will have no say in it and it won’t require Governor Snyder’s signature.
It’s clever, for sure. Right to Life Michigan KNOWS they are on the wrong side of this issue from the majority of Michigan residents and from Governor Snyder himself so they have to bypass the normal process and exploit a loophole made possible by a legislature full of conservative extremists put in place by decades of Republican gerrymandering.
The rhetoric coming from the anti-Choice forces is offensive. Because the measure makes no exceptions in the case of rape, a reporter asked Barbara Listing from Right to Life Michigan how women could be expected to plan ahead for being raped and purchase the extra insurance coverage. Listing’s answer was shocking: she compared being raped to having a car accident or having your basement flooded:
It’s simply like nobody plans to have an accident, a car accident. Nobody plans to have their homes flooded. And you have to buy extra insurance for those things, too.
Planned Parenthood of Michigan, whose supporters attended the elections board’s meeting en masse, released a statement condemning the decision in no uncertain terms:
By pursuing this initiative, extremists in the legislature are trying to go around Governor Snyder and the will of the majority of Michigan voters. This proposal would allow the government to dictate to the private sector what type of insurance coverage can be offered to private customers. Mandating that businesses cannot contract to cover abortions for rape victims, incest victims and women who face health risks is an unwarranted intrusion on the marketplace and a threat to women’s health. Nearly two-thirds of Michiganders think this is outrageous. We are dedicated to making sure that this effort fails.
It’s important to note that this petition is based entirely on a lie, a deception designed to make people uncomfortable about abortions support it. State and federal law already prohibit the use of taxpayer money to provide abortions. Also, companies that provide health insurance for their employees already have the option of putting the abortion coverage in a separate rider. This measure would prevent ALL companies from offering health insurance that covers abortions whether they wish to or not. Not just those decide to and not just insurance provided by the government. But you can be sure that the anti-Choice extremists will tout this as “stop the use of tax money for killing babies”, a lie of epic proportions. In fact, the group that submitted the petition language calls itself “No Taxes for Abortion”. It’s a truly outrageous lie and one they need to tell because nearly two-thirds of Michigan voters reject it.
Planned Parenthood has already rolled out a “Decline to Sign” campaign to inform voters about this deceptive petition drive, encouraging them NOT to sign Right to Life’s petitions.
As supporters of Planned Parenthood and women’s health, we need YOUR help to educate the public on why they should NOT sign petitions in favor of this misleading and disingenuous proposal. We will keep you informed in the coming weeks on how you can help stop these politically motivated attacks and government intrusion into women’s personal and private decisions.
The proposal deceptively implies that tax dollars are somehow involved in private insurance for abortion care. NO federal, state, or local tax dollars pay for abortions in Michigan—it’s already the law.
The petition has nothing to do with how abortions are funded. It is about who decides what should or should not be covered by someone’s personal health plan. The initiative would have legislators replace the judgment of women, their families, their faith, their health care provider, and their private insurers.
It’s important to educate people about the lies being told by the desperate and extremist anti-Choice zealots. Let people know that it’s already law that tax dollars not be used for abortion services and, just as importantly, that this measure would allow just 3.4% of registered Michigan voters to make law for the rest of, nearly two-thirds of whom disagree with it.
UPDATE: If you’re confused by the fact that 3.4% of the registered voters can bypass the Governor and the rest of the voters in Michigan to make a new law, you’re not alone. It’s part of a rarely-used process called the “indirect initiated state statute” process. It only makes sense to use this when you know you have overwhelming support in both chambers of the state legislature.
An indirect initiated state statute has the following characteristics:
- It is citizen-initiated, through the collection of signatures.
- Once the signatures are collected, the proposed law is sent to that state’s state legislature.
- Depending on the specific laws in that state, the state legislature typically can either choose:
- Not to act on the measure at all, in which case the measure is placed on the state’s statewide ballot and the voters decide its fate.
- To pass the law as written by the group that initiated it.
- To amend and then pass the law
- To come up with a law of its own addressing the same subject as the citizen-initiated measure and place that law on the ballot along with the citizen-initiated measure, allowing the state’s voters to choose the version they prefer.
In Michigan, only the first and second options are available. The number of signatures required is 8% of the number of votes for governor in the previous gubernatorial election.
If the petition contains a sufficient number of valid signatures the state legislature has 40 session days to adopt or reject the proposal. If the legislature rejects the law, then the measure is placed on the next general election ballot.