Using a unique loophole in state law, Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion extremists pushed a law through the state legislature yesterday that, opponents say, forces women to plan in advance for their own rapes — and there was nothing even the governor with his veto stamp could do about it.
Debate on the new law grew so emotional in the legislature that one state senator revealed for the first time publicly that she, herself, was a victim of rape two decades earlier.
Calling the new law, “one of the most misogynistic proposals I’ve ever seen,” East Lansing Democrat Gretchen Whitmer was nearly brought to tears as she contemplated what the new law would have meant in her own experience, had she become pregnant by her rapist.
“I can’t imagine going through what I went through and then having to consider what to do about an unwanted pregnancy from an attacker,” Whitmer (pictured) said. “If this were law then and I had become pregnant, I would not be able to have coverage because of this. How extreme, how extreme does this measure need to be?”
The new law prohibits private insurance companies from including abortion coverage in their regular plans. The companies are not even allowed to pay to terminate pregnancies that result from rape or incest. Michigan’s women, if they want abortion coverage, must purchase a separate “rider” specifically covering abortion services.
The catch is that women may purchase the stand-alone coverage only before becoming pregnant, even is the pregnancy results from a rape. That means that even women who would not normally seek an abortion must buy the insurance anyway, planning ahead to be raped.
That catch is why the new system set up by the bill is referred to as “rape insurance.”
But one Republican legislator said that women can “embrace” babies conceived through rape.
“That child shouldn’t be punished for the horrendous act that happened to them,” said Portage Rep. Margaret O’Brien.
Of the approximately 23,000 abortions performed in Michigan last year, only 3.3 percent were covered by insurance. Women on the public insurance program Medicaid in Michigan are banned from receiving coverage for abortion, though they get exceptions for rape or incest-caused pregnancies.
Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder vetoed the same proposed law last year, but this time he didn’t get the chance. Under Michigan’s “citizen’s initiative” loophole, a proposal that receives 300,000 signatures — less than 4 percent of the state’s population — on a petition may go immediately before the legislature for approval and may not be vetoed.
If the legislature had simply done nothing, the bill would have gone to a statewide citizen’s referendum, which is what Democrats wanted. Instead, the Michigan legislature’s Republican majority slammed the bill through.
The measure passed by a 62-47 vote in the state House and a 27-11 vote in the Senate, almost entirely along party lines. One Senate Democrat, Tupac Hunter of Detroit, voted in favor, while in the House the bill received two Democratic votes and one from an independent.
Michigan becomes the ninth state to restrict abortion coverage by private insurers.
Sources: Detroit Free Press, Associated Press, MSNBC