Michigan Democrats, War on Women, Women — June 16, 2014 at 10:30 am

UPDATED: Legislation introduced to repeal Michigan abortion insurance law


Bills would undo the law that requires women to buy extra insurance for miscarriages and abortions, even in cases of rape or incest.

See update below.

In a decisive move, Democratic State Representative Sarah Roberts and State Senator Gretchen Whitmer introduced bills on Monday that would repeal a controversial law that forces women to buy additional health insurance coverage for necessary medical care during a miscarriage or abortion. The law does not make exceptions for rape or the health of the mother — only the imminent death of the mother — and severely restricts women’s access to vital healthcare.

Passed by Republicans in the Michigan Legislature in December 2013, the law took effect in March. House Bill 5697 and Senate Bill 1010 would repeal the law, sometimes referred to as “rape insurance” because it forces women to plan ahead for tragic events like rape or a miscarriage.

Sen. Whitmer and Rep. Roberts call the new law cruel and unnecessary, and say they will fight to restore women’s full access to health care.

Rep. Roberts underscores how the existing law puts women’s health at risk.

This regressive law hurts women when they are most vulnerable and puts unreasonable barriers between them and the health care they need. A woman experiencing a miscarriage should have the peace of mind of knowing that she will receive safe and necessary medical care. This law instead injects politics into an already difficult situation, while potentially forcing a family to incur thousands of dollars of debt for care that had been traditionally covered by insurance. Prohibiting insurance companies and employers from doing what’s best for the women they serve and care for is wrong and must be stopped immediately.

Worse yet, she points out, although the law requires women to buy an extra insurance rider to get comprehensive health coverage, it does not mandate that insurance companies make these policies available. “Of the 42 health insurers in Michigan, only seven offer this rider,” Roberts said. “In addition, women who buy insurance on their own are not able to get it because it’s only available through employer health plans.”

Republicans passed the law prohibiting insurance companies from offering comprehensive health insurance after Right to Life of Michigan gathered signatures for a citizen’s initiative. Legislators had a choice to adopt the measure or put it to the vote of the people. Despite the public outcry, Republicans bowed to the pressure of special interests by passing the measure into law — which meant a mere three percent of the state’s population who signed the petition got to dictate health care for Michigan women and their families.

According to Whitmer, Republican legislators “sold out the people of Michigan” rather than upholding democratic principles.

It’s downright insulting to expect Michigan women to anticipate and financially plan for rape, incest or a miscarriage. This law should never have been enacted in the first place, and wouldn’t have if it had gone to the voters of Michigan, but the time to repeal it is now.

Gov. Rick Snyder and former Gov. John Engler vetoed identical legislation as being too extreme and wrong for Michigan. What’s more, doctors warn the law is poorly worded and may prevent women from getting necessary care for a miscarriage unless they have the foresight to purchase the additional insurance rider.

Sen. Whitmer emphasizes the strong commitment to repeal that she and Rep. Roberts share.

We can’t sit idly by as women see their rights and their ability to get critical care stripped away from them. Rep. Roberts and I heard the outcry from women around the state when this law passed in December and every day since, and we vowed then that we would work tirelessly to repeal it. I urge women and their families across the state to demand this law be undone, and that women’s right to health care be honored.

UPDATE: Following the announcement, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan (PPAM) issued a statement applauding this effort to undo one of the regressive laws pushed by conservatives that allow for unwarranted government intrusion into the private health care decisions of Michigan women.

“Michigan has been an embarrassment in terms of how we treat private medical decisions between a woman and her doctor,” said Libby McGaughey, vice president of public advocacy for PPAM. “It’s good to finally see some reasonable legislation being introduced in Lansing — legislation that does not trample on the rights of women to have access to affordable medical procedures. The Abortion Opt-Out Act puts women’s lives at risk, both physically and financially and is a stain on Michigan in how we treat women and their private health decisions.”

This is only the beginning. Watch for more updates on how you can get involved and be heard.

[Image by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]