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Michigan Passes Initiative Requiring Additional Preemptive Insurance Coverage For Abortions

By Lisa White in News on Dec 12, 2013 5:35PM

Women in Michigan may soon have to purchase additional preemptive insurance if they want to ensure they have a choice of being covered in the case of abortion in the future. A citizens’ initiative was approved Wednesday and will become law in March without the signature of Gov. Rick Snyder, who vetoed similar legislation a year ago. Anti-abortion group Right to Life collected 315,477 signatures (representing about 4 percent of Michigan’s population) to send the legislation to lawmakers. As the Detroit Free Press points out, citizen-initiated legislation has been used successfully in Michigan before and allows the Legislature to act on a petition and become law 90 days after lawmakers adjourn for the year, without being subject to approval or veto from the governor. (Lawmakers did have the option to let the legislation go to a statewide vote next November.)

The new law prohibits insurance companies from offering abortion coverage as part of public or private health plans with the exception of when a woman’s life is at risk. Employers or individuals must purchase supplemental riders for abortion coverage. A person wanting coverage would have to buy a rider before knowing if they need an abortion. Purchase of a rider after getting pregnant, even through rape or or incest, is not applicable. That means women would have to pay for the additional coverage ahead of time in case they might find themselves ever needing an abortion for any reason outside of immediate risk of death due to their pregnancy.

Michigan is the ninth state to restrict private plans from covering abortions. Seven of those states allow the purchase of riders. Utah however doesn’t even allow supplemental coverage of abortions. General insurance plans in Utah will cover abortion when the woman’s life is endangered or in the case of rape, incest or fetal impairment.

The Associated Press reports some interesting facts about Michigan’s overall abortion statistics. Of the roughly 23,000 reported abortions in Michigan last year (the second-fewest amount in 30 years), health insurance covered 739 or 3.3 percent according to state statistics.

The legislative debate was an emotional moment for many, including numerous personal stories from female legislatures including Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer sharing her story of being raped more than 20 years ago. The Detroit Free Press states the ACLU of Michigan will gather next week to begin planning for a petition drive to repeal the law. “These legislators need to know what they just did,” said Shelli Weisberg, a spokeswoman for ACLU of Michigan. “Women are mad. It’s like every election cycle, they something that specifically goes against women.”