The XX Factor

Michigan Largely Bans Insurance Coverage for Abortion, With No Rape Exception

Wednesday, the Michigan legislature overrode Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s earlier veto and passed a law banning any private insurance plan in the state from covering abortion. The new law doesn’t ban insurance companies from selling abortion coverage completely, but you have to buy a separate “rider” for the coverage, one that’s almost certain insurance companies won’t bother offering anyway. (Other states have similar bans but mostly aimed at individuals buying insurance on their own via health exchanges. Michigan is only the ninth state to ban the coverage for employer-based insurance.)

Pro-choice advocates have dubbed the bill the “rape insurance” bill, since it makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape. Which is why, after denouncing the bill as “one of the most misogynistic proposals” ever to go before the legislature, Sen. Gretchen Whitmer got up and spoke about her own experience of being a rape victim. “Over 20 years ago, I was a victim of rape,” Whitmer started, holding back tears. “And thank God it didn’t result in a pregnancy. Because 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.”

Most of the criticisms of the bill have been focused on the outrageousness of making a woman pay out of pocket for an abortion after being raped because she didn’t think ahead and buy the insurance rider as financial protection just in case of, you know, future rape. However, the bill also broadly bans abortion coverage in cases where a pregnancy has gone terribly wrong, such as with fetal abnormalities. Most women, either unaware that they have coverage or unwilling to tell their insurance they’re aborting, pay cash for elective first trimester abortions anyway. It’s women who need to abort wanted pregnancies because of serious fetal abnormalities are expected to be most hurt by this new law. These abortions, which spare the family grief and spare the woman from having to endure months growing a baby that can’t live, often have to be performed later in the pregnancy and can cost thousands of dollars. Now in Michigan, a woman who has a diagnosis of a fetal abnormality incompatible with life will find that her insurance, which she pays for, won’t cover her care because male religious fanatics say it should be so.