'Rape insurance bill' sparks controversy over insurance plans funding abortions

Michigan residents who buy health insurance will now have to purchase separate policies or "riders" to cover most abortions.

The Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act, labeled by Democrats and other opponents of the law as the "rape insurance bill," bars health insurance companies from covering most abortions in benefit plans unless customers buy separate.

Abortions can only be provided by insurance companies without a rider if the woman's life is in danger. All other abortions, even when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, are not covered.

The law, while controversial, is not expected to have an impact on Central Michigan Pregnancy Services. Director of Operations Krista Welke said CMPS does not deal with insurance companies directly and does not directly refer to abortion providers.

Insurance companies had to tell the state in February if they would offer abortion riders for purchase. Seven companies did, but will only offer them as part of employer-based plans, meaning those who purchase individual-based insurance will not have abortions covered.

The law has created controversy since its implementation Friday.

However, the vast majority of abortions in Michigan are not paid for using insurance. According to data obtained by the Detroit Free Press, just 3 percent of the more than 22,000 abortions performed in Michigan in 2012 were covered by insurance.

Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing praised the law as a victory for "transparency."

"Michigan citizens do not want to pay for someone else’s abortion with their tax dollars or insurance premiums," Listing said in a statement. "Michigan’s experience with Medicaid has clearly shown that tax funding for abortion leads to more abortions.”

Listing said the law provides "peace of mind" to pro-life workers who can now know if their insurance provides coverage for abortion.

“Abortion is not true health care – abortion kills a living, developing human being," she said. "March 14 is a good day for Michigan.”

Opponents of the law say it is an unfair attack on a woman's right to choose.

Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, is among the opponents of the law. He vetoed the bill in December after it passed the GOP-controlled Legislature

"I don't believe it is appropriate to tell a woman who becomes pregnant due to a rape that she needed to select elective insurance coverage," Snyder said.

After the veto, Right to Life of Michigan employed a rarely-used "citizens initiative process" by gathering 300,000 petition signatures in support of the bill. That meant the bill was sent back to the Legislature, where it passed again, this time into law, as a citizens initiative does not require the signature of the governor.

The move inflamed Democrats, accusing Republicans of oppressing women's rights to choose.

"This law unfairly punishes women simply for being women," State Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright, D-Muskegon, the chairwoman of the Women's Democratic Caucus, said in a statement. "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."

U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, the likely 2014 Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate and a former Griffin Endowed Chair in American Government at Central Michigan University, said he opposes the law.

"As the father of two daughters, I struggle with how to tell them that the state we love and where our family has been for generations is now unfairly discriminating against them and makes health care less affordable," Peters said in a statement.


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