The XX Factor

Michigan Anti-Choicers Seek to Ban Private Insurance Plans From Covering Abortion

Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed the so-called “rape insurance” bill last year,

Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

With all the various attacks on access to abortion going on in the country, relatively little attention has been paid to one of the more diabolical attempts to deny this access to women, especially low-income women. Twenty-three states have banned women from using their own private insurance plans to pay for abortion. Now Michigan may join that list, as lawmakers in that state are considering whether to keep pushing for a bill that Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed last year, either by overriding his veto or allowing the measure to be put on on a statewide ballot. Proponents of the law suggest women simply buy an entirely separate insurance plan just for abortion, knowing full well that roughly zero women will do that and zero companies will offer it, because buying insurance in case you need only one procedure is not how insurance works. 

How can anti-choicers justify banning women from creating a private contract with a company that allows for abortion coverage, particularly as Republicans tend to hold themselves out as lovers of the “free market”? Well, we are talking about people who feel entitled to micromanage your uterus, but the nominal excuse is that since everyone pays into a risk pool for insurance, the fundamentalist Christians in it should get to veto your abortion. Unsurprisingly, anti-choicers are unwilling to take that argument to its logical conclusion, by say, banning Viagra for aging anti-choicers because feminists who pay into the same risk pool object for ideological and aesthetic reasons. Only women’s health care coverage is subject to preapproval by a bunch of strangers.

As with most attacks on abortion rights, the primary result of this one would be to hurt low-income women. While not having insurance coverage of abortion is an irritant for better-off women, it’s women who can’t scrape together $500 or $600 who will really be harmed by this law. 

Opponents of the bill are framing the issue as one of forcing women to buy “rape insurance,” because if you want insurance coverage for an abortion in the event of rape, you still have to buy a rider that likely won’t exist anyway. It’s smart framing, as it gives you reason to oppose the bill even if you like to pretend you (or someone you love) would never need an abortion unless you were raped (because you aren’t one of those women). However, it also feels like a missed opportunity, since pro-choicers aren’t focusing on how anti-choicers have decided that you can’t purchase an individually held insurance plan because some religious nut feels your uterus is public property. Being told that our private transactions need to be examined by fundamentalist Christians before they can be completed seems like the sort of thing that many Americans would object to, even some Republicans. But the phrase “rape insurance” is pretty provocative, too, and so Democrats are sticking with it.