In March 2014, the State of Michigan passed a law prohibiting insurance companies from covering abortion services unless customers purchase “riders” to their plans ahead of time. Effectively, this law (termed the “Rape Insurance Law” by local Democrats) will make it illegal for insurance companies to provide coverage for abortion procedures on regular medical coverage plans. To get coverage, women will have to sign a separate rider, and pay extra for the added insurance. And these rules will apply even in the event that the woman is seeking to abort a pregnancy caused by rape or incest (hence the nickname), or out of a threat to her life or health. But perhaps most alarmingly, coverage will only be available through employer-based insurance plans. Meaning, women who buy their own individual policies cannot purchase the abortion rider, and must bear the full financial burden of any abortion procedures on their own.
In a state where 23,230 abortions were performed in 2012, and only 4 percent were paid for by insurers, lawmakers should pause and consider the effect of this new rule. According to a study in the Women’s Health Issues medical journal, fourteen percent of women who have undergone an abortion procedure have delayed or failed to pay rent as a result of the costs of the procedure. Sixteen percent couldn’t afford food, and thirty percent couldn’t pay other utilities and bills. In the first trimester, an abortion procedure alone can cost upwards of $500, and that’s without the added expenses of lost work, additional childcare, and travel costs. In the second or third trimester, those costs can climb to over $10,000, especially when the procedure involves a hospital (as many recent anti-abortion laws require). For low-income families, that may be tantamount to financial ruin.
So perhaps, supporters of this ‘Abortion Opt-Out Plan’ might say, women should be more careful about finding themselves carrying unwanted pregnancies. Well, maybe. But what about victims of rape? In the view of Michigan Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, a rape survivor who voted against the law, forcing victims to bear the financial costs of abortion procedures is downright unimaginable. Even Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who vetoed a similar bill last year, argued it is inappropriate to tell a woman who becomes pregnant as a result of rape that she should have planned for the costs of being sexually assaulted. And what about women who are forced to terminate wanted pregnancies out of medical necessity? The law isn’t restricted to covering only “elective abortions.” It will also limit coverage for medically necessary abortions, forcing some women to face financial ruin for “doing nothing more than trying to start a family.” So you might be wondering, what is the purpose of this law? According to Right to Life Michigan spokeswoman Genevieve Marnon, it’s because Right to Lifers shouldn’t have to pay for the costs of other women’s abortions. But I wonder, Michigan lawmakers, has it occurred to you who will bear the burden of paying for these procedures? In light of the fact that Marnon has outright stated that the organization does not anticipate that abortion rates will decrease as a result of the new law, it’s quite alarming to think about who this law will be punishing. That is, families facing the trauma of losing a wanted pregnancy, victims of rape, and the poorest citizens of the State of Michigan. So in the sentiment of State Representative Marcia Hovey-Wright, chairwoman of the Women’s Democratic Caucus, doesn’t this law actually seem like a tremendous embarrassment to the State of Michigan?