Deconstructing Michigan’s Abortion Opt-Out Act

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Edited by Jeremy Nickel

Deconstructing Michigan’s Abortion Opt-Out Act


In December 2013, supporters of the Abortion Opt-Out Act, derisively nicknamed the “rape insurance” initiative, won a sneaky victory as it was voted into law by the state of Michigan. This law bans insurance plans in the state from directly covering abortion. Women would have to purchase an abortion rider if they want to be covered. This means that in cases of rape and incest that result in pregnancy, women will need to have planned for these eventualities to be covered. Having an insurance rider sounds like a tidy solution, but the truth is insurance policies may not even include the rider in their policies. The reason? There is no market for it.

How it Snuck into Law
This law was brought to the legislature by a petition with 300,000 signatures. Michigan state law required the proponents of this bill, dubbed “the anti-choice community” needed close to 258,088 signatures in order to bring it before the legislature. This was a sneaky end-run that resulted in their victory. Because this is a citizen-initiated measure, it went straight to the GOP-controlled legislature the day before the end of the 2013 session and doesn’t need the Governor’s signature to get signed into law. Republican Governor Rick Snyder has already vetoed similar measures, so this was a definite coup for those trying to find legal ways to circumvent abortion law.

Pushing for Votes
Those who are for reproductive rights do have the opportunity to counter by circulating a petition that would force this law to a vote. Some of the legislators who voted for this law are from districts where a majority of their constituents are opposed to this type of measure that interferes with medical decisions; in fact it was for this reason that the Governor vetoed this law in 2012.
The grassroots organization of the anti-choice bill mobilized 8,000 volunteers to get those 300,000 signatures, though there is a question of whether those looking to put it to a public vote have the necessary numbers.
While abortion is legal in the U.S., there are those who look for legal ways to force the hands of private insurers. The claim that this law is a coverage and commerce issue, not a legal one which restricts abortion rights is a lot like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If this is an issue of not wanting to bear the financial burden of paying for this type of medical procedure, then where is the call for an insurance rider for vasectomies?

Sources:
http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/12/16/3067861/pro-choice-activists-michigan-referendum/
http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/12/12/abortion-rights-activistsvowfightnotoverinmichigan.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/11/michigan-rape-insurance_n_4428432.html

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