Abortion-insurance law will brand state as extreme, hostile to women

I never plan to have an abortion. But then, I never plan to be raped either. I never plan to have a pregnancy that threatens my health. Life doesn't always go as planned. It doesn't go as planned for the one in approximately six American women who are raped in their lifetimes. I honestly don't know how my feelings on abortion would change if I were in that position, and would never take any options off the table for the many women who are every year. It shocks and horrifies me that the Michigan legislature is in a position to do exactly that.

The veto-proof proposal, expected to be certified by the Board of Canvassers next week, will require women to buy separate health insurance riders to cover abortions in advance of becoming pregnant – even if the procedure is in response to rape or incest. Last year, a similar bill was passed by legislators but vetoed by Gov. Rick Snyder. Undeterred, Right to Life of Michigan gathered enough signatures to pass the reform as a voter petition, which can pass without Snyder's signature. And many believe it will.

“Enough signatures” is a generous term, considering less than 5 percent of Michigan voters signed the petition that could enact a law that attracted national press for being so extreme.

This is a sensitive issue. I understand many people have deeply held beliefs about when life begins. The truth of the matter is that in the United States, we don't legislate based on beliefs. That's what freedom of religion is – not being bound by law to someone else's religious or spiritual beliefs.

We legislate on facts. A fact is that when some women are discovered as pregnant by their rapists or family members or partners, their lives and health will be at risk. A fact is that those with the financial resources to pay for abortions privately will continue to do so; women on the edge of financial survival will be disproportionately targeted by this law. A fact is that these threats to women are so real that abortions will be sought out illegally. Before abortion was widely accessible, 17 percent of pregnancy-related deaths in the US were the result of illegal abortions.

Here's a fact that makes this potential law even more of threat here in Michigan. While one in six American women being raped is shocking enough, our state is one that weighs that statistic down. In a Forbes' list of the most dangerous cities for American women, Battle Creek, Flint and Saginaw were three of the 10 ranked cities. That's not a reputation that attracts women to our state. This bill will only amplify that effect.

In a statement to the Detroit Free Press, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer called this legislation “rape insurance,” and that label could not be more accurate. I have to pay car insurance today to cover the accident someone else will have tomorrow. Your medical insurance premium must cover someone's broken leg even if you are never injured. That's how insurance works. We do not get to choose whether or not our tax dollars pay for wars or farm subsidies or maintaining the White House Rose Garden. That's how democracy works.

We cannot have rape insurance in the state of Michigan. We will make our state known as too dangerous a place for women to live. We will take steps backward in women's health and safety. All to satisfy the beliefs of those who have not been and many of whom will never be in the position to need the right they are so willing to take away. That's not a fact Michigan women can afford to live with.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Fri, 11/29/2013 - 12:30pm
Rape insurance, its "Pure Michigan". Seems this could be used against the state in so many ways such as deciding whether to locate a business here, another state in competition for that business could bring this up as a major negative for female employees.
Sun, 12/01/2013 - 12:37am
I completely disagree with the author's fourth paragraph. The truth of the matter is that when life begins is not a deeply held belief. It is a fact. An embryo requires warmth and nourishment. It grows and changes. That is the very definition of life. This is not about religious or spiritual beliefs. Why do so many people refuse to accept the scientific definition of life when applied to a human fetus? Personal convenience?
Mon, 12/02/2013 - 10:17am
PEOPLE: When life begins has NOTHING to do w/ this petition/bill and everything to do w/ discrimination-get it? This is another anti-choice POS, being lobbied by the over zaelous ring wing pro-zygote group who mascarade under the misnomer of "pro-life" bc their belief is that every sperm is sacred. The female populcae of MI or anywhere should not have to abide by what a few select people think we should do w/ our bodies and further more have to pay a separate "tax" for having a vagina. That this is even on the table is preposterous. Call your legislatures!
Mon, 12/02/2013 - 10:21am
My apologies for the misspellings- that'll teach me to comment before coffee has fully kicked in.
Wed, 12/04/2013 - 12:15pm
Warmth and nourishment? Grow and change? Sounds like your very low threshold for defining "life" would also include cancer tumors. Should those be left alone in the body to absorb warmth and nourishment and to grow and change?
Sun, 12/01/2013 - 1:46am
"I understand many people have deeply held beliefs about when life begins. The truth of the matter is that in the United States, we don’t legislate based on beliefs. ...We legislate on facts." OK. The fact is that conception begins the life of an individual human being. It seems, Ms. Burg, that you're the one who ignores the facts.
Barbara Derman
Sun, 12/01/2013 - 5:32pm
this person, whoever Drew Hymer is, has clearly never been pregnant! The "truth" is that conception creates only the possibility of life. There is a great deal of nurturing and responsibility for the nurturing that must be successfully navigated before there is a human being born. Conception creates the possibility. The woman carries out that possibility. In this nation, she has the legal right to make the decision to do that or not. This decision impacts the rest of her life and the life of her family, her , the other children she may already have. If she chooses to carry out and nurture this possibility of a human life, she is assuming the awesome responsibility to bring a new person into this world. She deserves to make this decision. She deserves to be ready. If pregnancy is forced upon her, whether by rape, coercion by a partner, or the belief about conception held by someone else, her rights are being abused. This Drew Hymer, who doesn't know her, or her particular life or circumstance, has no right to impose his belief on her. That's the point!
Jonathan Ramlow
Sun, 12/01/2013 - 6:21pm
Thank you, Mr. Hymer, for using your real name with your comment. The other anti-abortion folks commenting here seem to prefer anonymity. I can't imagine why, unless it's perhaps that they do not want their wives, mothers, sisters, or daughters to catch them at this game they are playing. Next, Mr. Hymer, I would like to remind you that 1) anywhere from 15% to 20% of known human pregnancies end spontaneously before 20 weeks of gestation; and 2) that up to 50% of fertilized human ova (aka "conceptions") are lost spontaneously before the woman is ever aware of a possible pregnancy. These are facts. For any individual woman the risk for either of these events is determined by a number of factors, only some of which are modifiable. The primary cause of most miscarriages seems to be genetic inviability, however. So I would ask you and BigDutchman (whoever that is) a question: if all conceptions begin a human life, then who is responsible for the remarkably high level of attrition that occurs among fertilized ova, embryos, and fetuses before 20 weeks of gestation even in women (and couples) who want to and plan to become pregnant? My guess is that your answers will have something to do with the will of God, or "little do we mortals know,", or some other flavor of sophistry. In any case, it certainly seems that the human female uterus can be a very hostile environment indeed even under normal circumstances. What would you have us do about that? Shall we rail against this particular instance of Divine injustice and cruelty? Shall we pass laws criminalizing miscarriage, on the suspicion that no righteous woman would permit it to happen? Shall we require all women of reproductive age (and who are sexually active) to obtain quantitative HGC tests every 10 days so that ALL unplanned and unexpected early pregnancies can be detected and somehow nurtured to fruition against the odds? All of the above? Jonathan Ramlow, MPH, PhD PS: If you look me up in the MIdland phone book, you can come over some time so we can have an actual conversation about all this. Or you could firebomb my house, I suppose. Please don't do that, however, because the house belongs to my landlady, not me.
Jonathan Ramlow
Sun, 12/01/2013 - 6:26pm
Correction: the test is known as "quantitative HCG" not HGC. To err is human. To correct is simply polite.
Janice Best
Sun, 12/01/2013 - 6:43pm
Thank you, Dr. Ramlow. I hope they listen. Or that others of their mindset do.
Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:18pm
Mr. Ramlow - Love the fact that when one stands up for most defenseless among us (the little girls in the womb) one is considered to harbor a proclivity towards firebombing! My point is that we should also consider the life that is at risk of being snuffed out within the body of the discussion. If we are unable to consider that life, and the baby's inherent rights, we are simply talking to ourselves on one side of the issue. PS Yes, I do believe that the Lord has His plans, and we don't know what those are. You may consider that "sophistry" - I consider it faith in a Creator and Almighty God.
Deborah Torres-...
Sun, 12/01/2013 - 10:28am
Michigan is already a hostile state to women. I've advised my engineer daughter not to consider permanently returning home.
Sun, 12/01/2013 - 10:53am
Michigan is already a hostile state to women? Based on what evidence? Because Michigan frowns on all people, including women, murdering children? Hopefully your daughter will think this through for herself.
Kelley Beld
Sun, 12/01/2013 - 4:44pm
Smart of you to advise you daughter not to settle in Michigan - passing this law would make Michigan a truly backward place and especially hostile to women.
Sun, 12/01/2013 - 11:39am
That Natalie would want me to pay for insurance to cover her abortion in the unlikely event she were raped tells me all I need to know.
Sun, 12/01/2013 - 7:19pm
You sir are a terrible human being and your comment tells all of us "what we need to know" about you! If you have an issue based on something other than Religion, helping others should be considered the morally and socially upstanding thing to do. If you are a "Godly" person, you should feel sorry for any person who is raped and be willing to help them. Show them kindness in the hope that they will turn there life around. p.s I understand the issue of paying for others to deal with there own health issues. especially when those health issues are brought on by there own bad decisions (that is another topic). But... to comment the way you did is completely inappropriate.
Mary Jo Durivage
Sun, 12/01/2013 - 11:41am
Thank you Natalie for your very cogent and common sense column. You touched on so many good points. Access to safe and affordable abortion should be a part of any woman's basic health package. Your statistics on rape in Michigan was very sobering. I just don't understand the lack of fairness and compassion in those who work for this kind of public policy.
Sun, 12/01/2013 - 11:42am
Abortion and religion should not mix with politics based on the fact that the country and the state are so divided, almost evenly, on the legitimacy of abortion. Politics should be for all the people, not just the "winners". And religion, well that's in the US constitution that everyone has a right to their own belief.
Sun, 12/01/2013 - 11:58am
It's always interesting to me that there is never any mention by the pro-abortion lobby of the "hostility" presented to baby girls in the womb by the abortionists. I'd submit that that's a pretty hostile place for extremely young women to be. How about we take that factor into account in the discussion here?
Alex Campbell
Sun, 12/01/2013 - 4:26pm
No matter what your beliefs on abortion, the fact that a VETO-PROOF and REFERENDUM-PROOF law can be passed based on the signatures of a few hundred thousand people should SCARE you. Just because you happen to agree with THIS cause doesn't mean you'll agree with the next. What has happened to the legislative process in our state? What happened to the majority of voters getting a say? If you can't see that there are very serious implications for our state government and the rights of voters in this situation because you blindly agree with ANYTHING anti-arbortion, then you are being very short-sighted. The rights of average citizens are being taken away and given over to special interest groups. It's not about what voters believe in. The people with the most money get to ramrod their beliefs down everyone else's throat and we no longer get a say. It is disgusting!
Mon, 12/02/2013 - 9:43am
While I don't share your choice or wording, I do agree with the core point you are making. (And, for the record, I'm pro-life.) This is a tough course of action to swallow, regardless of the issue. Once certified by the Board of Canvassers, the proposal is in the hands of the Legislature. It cannot be vetoed if they pass it. If the Legislature does nothing, the proposal will go on the statewide ballot at the next general election. Regardless of their stances on the topic being proposed, any prudent legislator should opt to do nothing and place the decision in the hands of the people they represent. Yes, that means a lot of money (arguably needlessly) will be spent by both sides, not to mention the false rhetoric (also on both sides), preparing for the election. But ultimately the say will be with the people. One can argue that the people have already had their say by electing the legislators they have, but I do agree that when utilizing this voter-initiated avenue the decision should be handled by the statewide electorate.
jean kozek
Mon, 12/02/2013 - 1:32pm
When Roe v Wade directed that abortion was a legal right, I expected the then formed Right to Life group to support issues that would reduce the need for abortions. Does Right to Life support sex ed in schools which includes info about contraception choices? Does Right to Life support the Affordable Care Act that mandates free contraceptions? Does Right to Life support Planned Parenthood which spends 97% of its funds on women's health care including free contraceptions as well as advising women about good health practices during pregnancies? In some states rapists' names are on birth certificates which means the rapist, when released from prison, can demand joint custody rights. Does Right to Life champion against this injustice? This conservative group, Right to Life, like other similar groups, has spread false info about contraceptives and has blurred the lines as to when pregnancy begins. For example, last week one such group claimed that Plan B, the morning after pill, caused abortion. This is a lie. This pill prevents conception. Said groups differ in their definitions as to when life begins and often lie about various contraceptives and how they work. They don't cause abortions. But, contraceptions DO provide women with a choice as to when and whether to have a baby. This free choice, made by women and not politicians, seems to have become the major focus of their philosophy. I have heard conservatives argue that women's health care should cost more than men's since women can have babies. They argue against free mammograms and free contraceptions. In short, such rhetoric negates their argument that they are pro-life. They aren't. They are pro control of an individual's choices. The point of a law that mandates that a person pre-pays for abortion insurance is a case in point. These conservatives don't care whether a child of 11, 12, etc. was raped or whether it was an attack on a girl or woman. They know that a person's financial situation will likely deter the victim from a safe, affordable abortion. And eliminating that choice is their purpose. In this regard it does seem logical that there is a war on women's rights.
Fri, 03/21/2014 - 5:16pm
As an educated human being, wife, mother of 3, Lutheran, I believe that someone, such as a man, that will never have the ability to get pregnant, carry a pregnancy to term, breastfeed that child, or risk their lives carrying an unhealthy pregnancy, or during the delivery of a baby, whether it be their spouses child or an unknown rapist/family member,child molesters, should keep every opinion about women issues & rights to themselves. Unfortunately, these are the most arrogant, Jesus loving, hypocrites , who have the strongest opinions, and have the most ignorant things to say about what choices or rights women should have with their own bodies. I say to them, when your 16yr old daughter is raped by your uncle & is pregnant with his child only then, may men have an opinion, not a vote.