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What Is Michigan's 'Rape Insurance' Law?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

Michigan lawmakers passed a controversial bill on Wednesday that will ban insurance plans in the state from covering abortion unless the woman's life is in danger. The law, dubbed "rape insurance" legislation, will require residents who want health insurance coverage for abortions to purchase an extra policy, even in cases of rape and incest.

Because of the way the legislation was introduced, it is set to become law despite the objections of both the state's Democratic minority and the veto of the Republican governor.

'Planning Ahead' for Rape

The Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act prohibits insurance companies from offering abortion coverage as part of both public and private health plans, except when a woman's life is at risk. Employers and individuals who want abortion coverage must buy supplemental policies, known as riders, reports the Associated Press.

Supporters of the law believe the measure provides a way for opponents of abortion to avoid paying into a plan that covers it. But the bill's opponents coined the measure "rape insurance" because it would require women to plan ahead for the possibility of being raped by purchasing the elective insurance coverage ahead of time.

Citizen's Petition

In Michigan, residents can force the enactment of laws through the process of petition. The number of signatures required depends on whether the petition is an initiative, a referendum, or a constitutional amendment. This was an initiative petition and needed 258,088 signatures, according to the state's Citizen Guide.

The anti-abortion group Right to Life was able to collect more than 300,000 signatures to put the legislation before lawmakers. Yet those who signed comprise only four percent of the state's voting population. Still, instead of letting the measure go to a statewide vote next November, the state legislature opted to approve the citizens' initiative -- almost entirely along party lines.

Having been passed by both chambers, the controversial law will go into effect in March, even without the signature of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who vetoed similar legislation a year ago, reports the AP.

Other States With "Rape Insurance" Legislation

Michigan is the ninth state to restrict private insurance plans from covering abortion. Like Michigan, seven of the states -- Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma -- allow patients to purchase riders to make up for the lack of coverage, reports the AP.

Utah doesn't even permit supplemental coverage of elective abortions, but the state allows general plans to cover the procedure when the woman's life is in danger, her health is severely compromised, or in cases of rape, incest, or fetal impairment.

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