A mere 4% of Michigan voters, with the cooperation of the legislature, just forced a measure onto the state’s women that requires them to get a separate rider on their health insurance if they want abortion coverage. Even if a woman is impregnated through rape or incest, her insurance won’t pay for an abortion unless she already has a rider in place.
Even Governor Snyder thinks the law is too extreme.
In a telling sign of how extreme this law is, even conservative governor Rick Snyder thought it went too far. Last year, he vetoed the same measure, which would require women to get what is being labeled ‘rape insurance’. After passage of the law on Wednesday, the governor’s spokeswoman, Sara Wurfel, commented on his 2012 decision:
He felt it highly inappropriate to tell a woman who becomes pregnant due to a rape that she would have needed to select elective insurance coverage and also … it interferes in the current private market for insurance.
Immediately after the governor vetoed it, the anti-choice group ‘Right To Life’ started a petition drive for an initiative that would require the legislature to take a new vote on the measure. They needed only about 250,000 signatures, but turned in over 315,000 — about 4% of Michigan’s total voters. According to the state’s constitution, if both houses approved the bill on this second vote, it would become law, without the governor’s signature, 90 days after the legislature adjourned. That means it will take effect in March.
Female lawmakers begged their colleagues not to vote for the legislation. As an alternative, they suggested putting it on the ballot next November and letting all of the voters decide. A statewide poll taken last month showed that 47% of voters oppose the ‘rape insurance’ requirement while only 41% support it.
Women legislators telling their stories make no difference to Republicans.
Women senators and representatives alike told personal stories, often in tears, of the need for abortion coverage. Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer revealed publicly for the first time that she was raped 20 years ago. Afterward her statement, she had to go call her dad and tell him about the rape for the first time, to make sure he didn’t hear it on the news. Rep. Colleen Lamonte revealed that a wanted pregnancy ended in a painful miscarriage that required a D&C (dilation and curettage) procedure that would have been denied under the proposed law.
Their fellow lawmakers remained unmoved. Virtually on party lines, the Senate passed the bill with 16 Republicans and 1 Democrat in favor, to 11 Democrats opposed. The House passed it with 59 Republicans, 2 Democrats, and 1 independent for, to 47 Democrats opposed.
Women vow the law will be overturned.
But what a citizens’ initiative gives, a citizens’ initiative can take away. Rep. Sarah Roberts, D-St. Clair Shores, said, “There will be another initiative to overturn this abhorrent act.” That was reinforced by a promise from Shelli Weisberg, of the ACLU of Michigan, who said the planning for a petition drive to repeal the measure will start next week. She also said, “These legislators need to know what they just did. Women are mad. It’s like every election cycle, they do something that specifically goes against women.”
Next November, it’ll be time for women to specifically go against the current crop of elected Republican officials. Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright, D-Muskegon, pointed out that Michigan is in the national spotlight over the issue. Pro-choice groups are rallying their resources, prompting Hovey-Wright to warn: “Do not underestimate the power of a lot of very angry women and the men who support us. A yes vote puts you on the wrong side of history.”