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Michigan ‘rape insurance’ law goes into effect

Published time: March 14, 2014 20:00
Michigan State Capitol  (Bill Pugliano / Getty Images / AFP)

Michigan State Capitol (Bill Pugliano / Getty Images / AFP)

A controversial new abortion law went into effect in Michigan on Thursday, requiring any woman who may want to seek help paying for the procedure to purchase a separate insurance policy.

Under the new law, unless a woman has previously purchased an extra insurance plan specifically covering abortion, the service will not be covered – even in cases of rape or incest. Exceptions only kick in the event of health complications due to miscarriages or when the woman’s life is in danger.

What’s more, the additional abortion riders will not be available for purchase on the individual marketplace. Seven insurance companies decided to offer the abortion plans, but only within employer-based plans. That means women shopping for insurance on their own will be out of luck, regardless of whether or not they go through the new state and federal insurance exchanges.

“This law unfairly punishes women simply for being women,” state Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright (D-Muskegon), chairwoman of the Women’s Democratic Caucus, said in a statement to the Huffington Post. “Women deserve the same access to full health care as men receive, but only women are told they must buy extra insurance to get it."

Passed in December, the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act has generated a fair amount of controversy, with supporters believing it is necessary to prevent Pro-Life advocates from indirectly paying for abortion procedures through payments on their premiums.

“Do we anticipate this will lower abortion rates? No,” said Right to Life Michigan spokeswoman Genevieve Marnon to the Detroit Free Press. “But ... it’s one thing for you to pay for your abortion and another thing for me to have to pay for it.”

Gov. Rick Snyder (Bill Pugliano / Getty Images / AFP)

The tangible impact of the law on Michigan’s won't be immediately clear, since less than four percent of all the state’s abortion services performed in 2012 were paid for by insurance companies. Many individuals choose to pay for the procedure out of their own pockets, but Planned Parenthood’s Lori Lamerand told Huffington Post that the cost varies greatly depending on when the service is sought.

"An early trimester procedure is one thing, but if you consider a family that had to abort a child due to a medical issue -- at a time when a family would be experiencing an incredible tragedy, we will just be adding insult to injury," she said.

This sentiment was echoed by Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing), who told the Free Press that women requiring “medically necessary” procedures would have to shoulder potential costs of “tens of thousands of dollars.”

“This isn’t talking about someone looking for an elective abortion,” she added. “This is a woman with a wanted pregnancy who is forced to terminate it because of health concerns and may now may face financial ruin for doing nothing more than trying to start a family. If that’s not a direct attack on women and our health to say insurance can’t cover this type of critically important reproductive care, I don’t know what is.”

As RT reported last year, the law was passed despite being originally vetoed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. The governor called the bill “too extreme,” but a little-known state provision procedure allowed the Republican-controlled legislature to override the veto and pass the bill anyway. If three percent of the state’s population signed a petition in support of the proposal, it could go to the floor and pass without requiring authorization by the governor.

Opponents of the law, meanwhile, declared their intention to fight the bill by starting their own initiative.