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Opinion | Michigan favors abortion rights, let’s nix insurance rider law

In the fall of 2021, we discovered at a routine ultrasound appointment during my  second trimester that our baby had an abnormality called a cystic hygroma, a condition we learned was rarely survivable. It was the second piece of devastating news. A few weeks prior we’d learned that I was pregnant with twins, but the heartbeat of one had already stopped.

Clare Molnar headshot

Clare Molnar is a stay-at-home mom and describes herself as a pro-abortion activist. She talks about her abortion experiences in this recently produced video 

I knew there would be many hard moments ahead. What I didn’t anticipate is how much stress we’d have to endure over the cost of my care because of Michigan’s punitive laws regarding abortion and coverage by private insurers.    

At one point, our high-risk obstetrician urged us to hurry our decision-making process because the cost of abortion rises as pregnancy goes on. We were making one of the most personal, consequential, and painful decisions of our lives and simultaneously stressing over the many thousands of dollars the necessary health care might saddle us with. Over the next couple weeks, after many really difficult conversations with our doctors, genetic counselors and each other, we finally decided to seek an abortion via labor induction to end the pregnancy.  

After nearly four days at the hospital, we said goodbye to our son, who we named Henry. The following weeks were a combination of acute grief for the loss of our baby and anger and disquiet over the bill we knew was coming. To our surprise, confusion, and overwhelming relief, we found out that our hospital bill, which totaled nearly $36,000, had been completely covered by insurance.     

We believe this was based on a technicality – at one point during the long termination process, an ultrasound was performed, and we discovered that our son’s heart had already stopped beating, unbeknownst to us. We assume that this allowed the hospital to bill my procedure under the umbrella of miscarriage management instead of abortion.     

Although I was grateful, we were spared this huge financial burden, I was also irate. The distinction between abortion and miscarriage management can often be murky. Depending on how a circumstance is classified, a patient can be responsible for paying medical bills totaling thousands of dollars or pay nothing at all.  

Had we been responsible for the cost of my hospital stay, my husband and I would’ve had to make some difficult financial decisions and go into debt to pay the bill. We never imagined we might be fully responsible for the cost of my care when we had health insurance. 

What we learned is that the state of Michigan prohibits private insurers from automatically paying for abortions. Instead, people must purchase special “riders” to obtain such coverage – meaning they have to plan ahead for a procedure used when people have unplanned pregnancies or, as we experienced, unexpected medical complications.  

This past November, Michiganders turned out to the polls to demonstrate overwhelming  support for Proposal 3, a ballot measure to enshrine reproductive freedom in the state constitution. Although abortion remains legal in Michigan thanks to the success of this initiative, both abortion patients and providers are still being harmed by a collection of laws put in place by anti-abortion politicians over the past 20 years.   

These laws, which include a mandatory waiting period, among others, were specifically designed to undermine access to abortions. Now, thankfully, we as a state are well-positioned to wipe these onerous laws from the books. For the first time in nearly 40 years, Michigan Democrats hold the governorship and a majority in both chambers of the Legislature. A majority created, at least in part, by the massive turnout of voters who showed up at the polls intent on electing people who promised to protect abortion rights.   

With that clear mandate in mind, legislators should act quickly to repeal all the laws hindering abortion access, including the law enacted in 2014 that prohibits private health insurance companies from providing coverage for abortion care.   

I was only vaguely aware of this law until it cast its threatening shadow over me and my husband.   

A year and a half after my abortion, I remain grateful that our costs were covered, but worry for all the other individuals and couples who face circumstances similar to ours – those who choose to have abortions after learning that their wanted pregnancies are complicated by serious birth defects or abnormalities. 

I also worry for those who are seeking abortions for other, often simpler reasons who cannot handle the out-of-pocket costs of an abortion. This also means ensuring abortion coverage for those enrolled in Medicaid. A common reproductive-rights rallying cry is that “abortion is healthcare.” If we really mean this, we cannot have a law in place that prevents patients from getting their abortions — their healthcare — covered by their health insurance.  

Importantly, that is only one of dozens of laws restricting access to abortion that must be repealed.  

I am proud to be a lifelong resident of a state that voted so strongly in support  of abortion rights. I will be even prouder if our state legislators repeal the draconian anti-abortion laws currently in place with the purpose of severely restricting access to abortion and traumatizing the people who need it.  

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