A law requiring Michigan women to purchase a rider if they expect their private health insurance to cover abortion services takes effect Thursday.
Right to Life Michigan admits the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act won’t lower abortion rates in the state, but will shift the burden on who pays for the services. Opponents say it’s a draconian law that threatens women’s health by limiting their access to a procedure that is legal and constitutionally protected, the Detroit Free Press reports.
The law applies even when an unwanted pregnancy is a result of rape or incest – a circumstance that prompted an impassioned plea by State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) last winter, when she disclosed last January that she had been raped 20 years ago.
Pregnancy didn’t result, but she said she “can’t even begin to imagine now having to think about the same thing happening to my own daughters" in Michigan's anti-abortion climate.
Whitmer and others tried unsuccessfully to get the bill repealed. Failing that, they urged voters to remember lawmakers who voted for it at the polls.
When the law takes effect Thursday, women who had not purchased the add-on riders ahead of time won’t be reimbursed if they have an abortion.
That's a moot point, as no insurance companies will be offering those riders to new customers in the private marketplace after the law takes effect, the state’s Department of Insurance and Financial Services spokesman Caleb Buhs told the Free Press.
Insurers had to tell the state in February if they planned to offer and sell abortion coverage. Seven said they would, but only as part of of employer-sponsored plans. As a result, anyone who purchases insurance as an individual, whether on the private health insurance marketplace or the new federal health-care exchange under the Affordable Care Act, won’t be able to obtain coverage for abortion services.
Elective Abortions Already Declining in Michigan
The Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act was passed in December by Michigan’s Republican-controlled legislature after stormy debate.
Democrats called it the “rape insurance bill” because it require women to buy coverage they may not anticipate needing. Whitmer told the Free Press that it could limit coverage for a medically necessary D&C procedure, meaning the woman would have to bear on her own the cost of a procedure that could costs tens of thousands of dollars.
The majority of abortions in Michigan – and nationwide – are already paid out-of-pocket, the newspaper said. Department of Community Health statistics show that only 3 percent of the 22,700 abortions performed in Michigan in 2012 were covered by insurance. Abortions have also plummeted 52 percent from 1987-2012, the statistics show.
“This isn’t talking about someone looking for an elective abortion,” Whitmer said. “This is a woman with a wanted pregnancy who is forced to terminate it because of health concerns and may now may face financial ruin for doing nothing more than trying to start a family.
“If that’s not a direct attack on women and our health to say insurance can’t cover this type of critically important reproductive care, I don’t know what is,” she said.
Right to Life Michigan spokeswoman Genevieve Marnon defended the legislation.
“Do we anticipate this will lower abortion rates? No,” she said.. “But ... it’s one thing for you to pay for your abortion and another thing for me to have to pay for it.”