That’s Barbara Listing, president of Right To Life of Michigan, explaining to reporters why the pro-life organization is sponsoring an initiative which would require health insurance companies to offer elective abortion coverage in an optional rider, not in the basic health insurance policy. Individuals and businesses would be able to select abortion coverage under all private and public insurance plans, but would not be required to purchase it as part of an overall health package.
The restriction on abortion coverage was first proposed in Michigan last year, as part of the Blue Cross health overhaul. The measure was vetoed by Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who called it “too cruel” to women who had become pregnant by rape or who had a medical condition which made a pregnancy risky for the mother’s health. After the governor’s veto, the state legislature presented a revised version of the legislation which did not contain the abortion restriction.
Michigan pro-life organizations did not give up on the idea, however. As implementation of the Affordable Care Act nears, Right To Life of Michigan drafted a petition which would ban Michigan health insurance plans from covering abortions without a supplemental policy.
And on Wednesday, May 22, the four-person Michigan State Board of Canvassers ruled that the petition form started by a group called No Taxes for Abortion Insurance complies with state law, thus clearing the way for Right To Life of Michigan to embark on a statewide petition drive. If by next spring the group collects at least 258,000 valid signatures (8 percent of voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election), it will move forward—and the Legislature will have 40 days to either pass or reject the proposal before it’s placed on the ballot.
The odds of passage look pretty good: If the Legislature doesn’t act, the proposal will automatically appear on the November ballot. If the Legislature opposes the proposal, it will still appear on the ballot, although legislators could also post a separate, competing proposal. But since the Michigan Legislature had voted for the legislation once before, it’s likely that they will approve it once again and it will be adopted by a majority vote of the State House and Senate, immune to gubernatorial veto.
Right To Life of Michigan has a strong track record as promoter of voter-initiated legislation.
- In 1987, RTL-M successfully pushed through a ban on Medicaid funding for abortions.
- In 1990, they initiated parental consent legislation which was signed into law.
- In 2004, Right To Life of Michigan was successful in their campaign to outlaw partial-birth abortion in the state.
Asked by reporters why people should have to purchase supplemental insurance coverage in case they are raped, Barbara Listing explained, “Nobody plans to have … a car accident, nobody plans to have their homes flooded. They have to buy extra insurance for those things too.”
If the measure is put in place before the federal Affordable Health Care Act takes effect, Michigan will be the 22nd state to implement such a policy.