State Republicans in Michigan are facing a backlash after passing a law Wednesday that will require residents to purchase additional health insurance if they want abortion coverage. Dubbed the “rape insurance” bill by opponents, the initiative will require most insurance plans to offer a separate benefit rider for abortions. But those riders will not be available to women after they become pregnant by any means, including incest and rape. Democrats say the requirement is tantamount to asking women to “plan ahead for your abortion,” as the progressive Electablog pointed out in October.
The measure passed 62-47 in the House and 27-11 in the Senate, both of which are Republican controlled. Some Michiganders took to Twitter Wednesday to tweet their dissatisfaction at Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and Speaker of the House Jase Bolger.
â€” Cory S (@bdcory) December 12, 2013
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.@SpeakerBolger you're a disgusting creep. Your perverse delusions on how you should govern women's bodies makes me ill. #2014 is coming
â€” Detroit Democrat (@audreylmg) December 11, 2013
@SpeakerBolger Big surprise with a Repub majority in both Houses. Like that is supposed to be a good thing? Shame on all of you Yes votes
â€” Kristi Lloyd (@kristilloyd123) December 11, 2013
With the new initiative, Michigan joins eight other states that have passed laws requiring an extra insurance policy for abortion coverage. The measure is wildly unpopular, with polls showing that only 36 percent of Michigan voters approve of it, according to the Center for Inquiry. In fact, Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, vetoed an identical bill last year. But the House and Senate were able to take the issue up again thanks to Michigan’s unusual citizens’ initiative process, which allows petitions to move through the legislative process and become law without the governor’s signature.
Anti-abortion activists led by the group Right to Life collected just under 300,000 signatures, more than enough to put the proposal before the Legislature. Lawmakers then had the option of letting it go to a statewide vote next year, and a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #LetMiVote had been urging them to do just that.
â€” Jerry Learn (@JLearn48) December 12, 2013
In hopes of convincing the Michigan Legislature to let the people decide the issue, Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer had launched a Change.org petition, which was signed by 6,046 supporters. “How can this NOT be important to me?” one supporter wrote. “Get a brain, you men!”
As part of her testimony against the legislation on Wednesday, Whitmer shared a moving personal story about being raped 20 years ago. She said it was the first time she had spoken publicly about the incident. “Thank God I didn’t get pregnant as the result of my own attack,” she said. “But I can’t even begin to imagine now having to think about the same thing happening to my own daughters.”
According to state statistics reported by the Associated Press, only 3.3 percent of the 23,000 abortions performed in Michigan last were covered by health insurance.
Watch Whitmer’s full testimonial below.