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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.

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