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12/12/2013

Zombie "rape insurance" law comes back to life in Michigan

MICHIGAN ABORTION VOTE

Prayers answered:  abortion opponents won victory when a restrictive law was passed in Texas in October and it was upheld by Supreme Court.  A number of U.S. states have blocked access to abortion.  Photo:AP/Eric Gay.

Moving to Michigan anytime soon? 

If so, and you’re a woman, better take out a rape insurance package just in case.

Yes, rape insurance. Or to put it more broadly, insurance against unintended pregnancy, even one caused by rape or incest.  It’s the latest move by the state’s social conservatives to restrict abortion for poor women (richer ones, naturally, don’t have to worry about lack of coverage.)

The bill, which passed Wednesday, is the product of a bizarre legislative process that allows “citizens’ petitions” in some states to zoom into law even over the heads of the majority of citizens, and in Michigan’s case, the state governor.

Approved by the mainly conservative state legislators, it had already been vetoed by the governor, and polls show that most voters object to it. But the side-step rule meant it could pass veto-free.

When it takes effect in March, it will force women covered by public or private health insurance plans to pay extra for fear that they might suffer an unintended pregnancy, including one that threatens their lives or wellbeing. Its critics have dubbed it “rape insurance.”

The zombie bill sprang back to life courtesy of some 300,000 anti-abortion activists who submitted a petition to the state legislature. Those slapping their foreheads in disbelief should know that most members of the state House and Senate had already signed up before the vote.

Outside the legislature, the bill is supported by only about one-third of Michigan’s voters. Few of them, we’d guess, poor women who would have to ante up at least $400 to terminate a pregnancy without coverage. More than a week’s pay for minimum-waged workers.

“Requiring Michigan women to plan ahead for an unplanned pregnancy is not only illogical,” said a press release from state Senate Minority Leader Grechen Whitmer, “it’s one of the most misogynistic proposals I have ever seen in the Michigan legislature.”

Or other American states. Michigan is the ninth to take the insurance route to restricting abortions. And its new law is only the latest in a long line of barriers that have made the historic Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion almost invalid, except for women with the means to dodge draconian laws in their own states by travelling to more liberal venues.

But here’s the head-scratcher.

Forcing poor (often black or Hispanic) women to have babies may suit the ideology of social conservatives. But what about their economic agenda? That targets poor mothers and children by demanding cuts to food stamps, unemployment insurance and welfare – as well as medical coverage and public education. All that remains is to criminalize the inevitably destitute kids and jail them as soon as possible, raising the already sky-high prison budget.

Poor women, of course, could avoid the whole sad cycle by saying “no sex please, I’m impoverished.” And hoping the rapists get the message.

Olivia Ward has covered conflicts, politics and human rights from the former Soviet Union to the Middle East, South Asia and the U.S., winning national and international awards.

 

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Comments

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Wow. What a name for a bill. I don't agree with the fact that women will be "forced" (as mentioned above) to pay the extra fee but it is a sad fact that impoverished women are more likely to have these atrocious acts done to them. I feel like this "insurance" should be an option though. If a woman feels she lives in a threatening environment but cannot afford to leave that environment, knowing she can have coverage if the unthinkable happens would be a big relief.

Very thought-provoking article.

Cheers
Brendon

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