Michigan Passes "Rape Insurance" Bill

Government interference with the operations of businesses should be anathema to Republicans, yet when it comes to abortion, their supposed core values go right out the window.

Dec 13, 2013 at 11:30am | Leave a comment

Vagina-operating Michigan residents of childbearing age, I offer you my guest futon in light of recent legislative events, because I can understand how you might want to flee your state posthaste and not return until your government pulled its head out of its behind.

Because, truly, your Republican-dominated legislature is beyond despicable, as proved this week with its ridiculous abortion rider bill, dubbed the “rape insurance” law in the media, because that’s basically what it is.

For those just catching up on this controversy, here’s the deal: Some right-wing concern-trolling jerkfaces in Michigan decided that people opposed to abortion shouldn’t be “forced” to pay into insurance plans that cover it. Because obviously the insurance market is limited to one product only and thus consumers aren’t able to pick and choose between several plans, including those that don’t cover abortion.

So they insisted that the state pass a law barring insurance plans from offering abortion coverage, forcing those who want it to purchase a additional rider. This is a clear case of misogynistic discrimination, effectively saying that people should plan ahead for their abortions -- it reminds me of the historic refusal to cover pregnancies and related expenses by many insurance companies without an additional rider. (I have to confess that for all my virulent hatred of ACA, I have to give it props for the clause banning insurance companies from this discriminatory practice.)

To recap: conservative poopnoddies felt it was so imperative that they not be soiled by abortion that they insisted that insurance companies not be allowed to cover it in their standard plans, even though only 3.3% of abortions in the state were covered at all, according to the AP.

Many women’s rights groups found this deeply offensive, as did legislators. To start with, telling people they’re supposed to plan ahead for abortions is ridiculous, as is singling out a specific medical procedure like this. No one plans ahead for broken legs, brain surgery, or chemotherapy, after all -- these are all things people buy insurance for just in case they happen. One hopes they do not, but life can be unexpected sometimes, and that’s the whole point of buying insurance.

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Senator Whitmer, generalized badass. 

Photo: swskeptic.

Sometimes people get pregnant and they would rather not be. Most might expect an abortion to be covered by insurance so they can receive safe, compassionate care from familiar care providers. Some people get pregnant, want to be, and have a miscarriage, which often necessitates procedures that fall under the umbrella of abortion care. While they’re dealing with the emotional trauma of losing a wanted pregnancy, they, too, would expect their care to be covered by their health insurance.

And some people, as pointed out by numerous critics of this legislation, are raped and become pregnant as a result. Some of those people may choose abortion because the pregnancy is unwanted. They, too, deserve insurance coverage for their medical care -- and this law was effectively telling people that they needed to plan ahead for rape. By purchasing some rape insurance! Just in case!

I have to give Governor Rick Snyder some credit: when a similar version of this bill came up last year, he vetoed it, and his comments on the situation were quite strong.

First, it treats situations that involve rape, incest and health of the mother as elective abortions. 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. Second, the abortion changes in this bill interfere in the current private market for insurance. Insurance companies and private buyers of insurance should be able to conduct their own affairs.

This from a Republican governor, one who simultaneously made a strong human rights argument and an appeal to basic conservative values regarding the free market. I usually do not like you, Rick Snyder, but you scored a masterful point there. Good work. 

Unfortunately, anti-reproductive rights groups in Michigan pressured to have the bill reintroduced, which is why we’re facing rape insurance redux. Worse, the citizen’s petition method they used allows laws to pass without the governor’s signature, effectively bypassing the executive branch in a brilliant evasion of checks and balances. Thus, 4% of Michigan’s voters managed to dictate the rights of the entire state. Well played, misogynistic fascists. Well played.

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Representative Lisa Brown was barred from the floor of the legislature after saying the word "vagina," so activists staged a production of "The Vagina Monologues" at the capital.

Photo: dailycloudt.

While the bill was under debate, Senator Gretchen Whitmer (D) spoke passionately about her own experiences with sexual assault. While her rape didn’t result in a pregnancy, she was outraged at the thought that it could have, and her insurance could have denied coverage if she’d chosen abortion.

For those you who want to act aghast that I’d use a term like “rape insurance” to describe the proposal here in front of us, you should be even more offended that it’s an absolutely accurate description of what this proposal requires. This tells women that were raped and became pregnant that they should have bought special insurance for it. By moving forward on this initiative, Senate Republicans want to essentially require Michigan women to plan ahead and financially invest in healthcare coverage for potentially having their bodies violated and assaulted. Even worse, it would force parents to have similar and unthinkably terrible discussions about planning the same for their daughters. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: This is by far one of the most misogynistic proposals I’ve ever seen in the Michigan legislature.

Another woman in the legislature provided her own heartbreaking testimony, about a wanted pregnancy that ended in miscarriage at 12 weeks. “I would have been denied this procedure,” Senator Colleen Lamonte (D) said. “Or we would have had an expensive medical bill that would have bankrupted us.

Even some of the men of the legislature were disgusted. Senator David Knezek said that “This body made up of 80 percent men will make a decision that will impact 100 percent1 of women.”

Yet, the bill passed anyway, because in a legislature dominated by conservatives, this is what happens.

People are already calling (and lobbying) for a repeal, but it’s horrific that the law passed in the first place, and that eight other states (Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Utah) have similar legislation on the books.

Furthermore, such bans are also present on state exchanges, meaning that low income people with less purchasing power on the insurance market such as those who are receiving assistance to get on insurance plans are being compelled to buy plans without critically needed insurance coverage.

We rage about the “war on women” and rape a lot, and this is a crystalline example of why these things are such huge issues in the United States: intrusive misogynistic attitudes are so far-reaching that they impact every part of our lives. In this case, conservatives are so eager to restrict the freedom to make private medical choices that they’re making choices that contradict their stated values on free market economies and capitalism: government interference with the operations of businesses should be anathema to Republicans, yet when it comes to abortion, their supposed core values go right out the window.

Don’t like abortions? Don’t have one. Don’t like abortions so strongly that you don’t want to be part of an insurance plan that offers abortion coverage? Buy into a different insurance plan. You don’t have the right to impose your moral values on other people.

1. We’ll forgive him a little bit of hyperbole: obviously not 100% of women are at risk for pregnancy, given the fact that not all women have uteri, not all women are fertile, etc etc. The spirit of the point still stands. Return