(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
A pro-life group in Michigan has successfully submitted a petition to state legislature that would put restrictions on abortion coverage on insurance plans. If passed, the new law would require women to purchase an additional rider to their insurance plan to cover an abortion before they become pregnant.
On Monday, the Michigan Board of Canvassers approved a petition by the pro-life group Right to Life of Michigan that requires the Republican-controlled state legislature to address the "Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act." The act could be approved by a majority vote in state legislature and does not require the signature of Gov. Rick Snyder, who has voiced his opposition to this specific issue, although he has said he's pro-life.
In order to have their act considered by lawmakers, Right to Life of Michigan had to acquire 58,088 valid signatures from state citizens on a petition regarding the issue. According to the Detroit Free Press, the pro-life group submitted 315,477 signatures, and 299,941 of the signatures are already estimated to be valid. After legislature returns from a two-week break on Tuesday, it has 40 days to address the proposal. If it rejects it or ignores it, it will be put up to a popular vote on the Nov. 2014 ballot.
If passed, the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act would require women in the state to purchase a rider for abortion coverage in addition to their private or public health care plan. The women would have to purchase the extra coverage before knowing if they were going to have an abortion, and they would not be able to purchase the rider after getting pregnant. There are no exceptions for purchasing the rider after getting pregnant, including in cases of rape or incest. Abortion in the case of preserving a woman's health, such as a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, would not require a rider as they are not considered "elective" and would therefore be covered under the woman's regular insurance plan.
Right to Life of Michigan states on its website that it is pleased the voices of Michigan pro-lifers have been heard by the state's representatives and senators. Less than a year ago similar legislation reportedly passed the state's House and Senate but it was vetoed by Gov. Snyder, who argued the bill went "too far" in limiting abortion coverage for victims of rape or incest and for dictating what private insurance companies may cover.
"We are thankful for the people of Michigan who participated in the NO Taxes for Abortion Insurance petition drive to allow our elected officials the opportunity to vote on the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act again," Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing said in a statement. "Michigan citizens do not want to pay for someone else's abortion with their tax dollars or health insurance premiums. Abortion is not health care; abortion kills a living, developing human being."
The bill has been debated by pro-abortion advocates who argue that Right to Life of Michigan is attempting to skirt state laws by finding a loophole in the state constitution that forces lawmakers to address a bill if it is initiated by citizens via a petition.
"It's unconscionable that Right to Life has launched a campaign against women's rights by finding a loophole in the law and skirting a signature from the governor," Jessica Tramontana, communications director for the advocacy group Progress Michigan, said in an October statement according to the Huffington Post. "The president of Right to Life went as far as describing this extra insurance like buying coverage for a 'flood or a car accident.' Rape is not an accident."