---- — LANSING (AP) — An anti-abortion group seeking to ban Michigan health insurance plans from covering abortions without a supplemental policy cleared an early hurdle Wednesday in its effort to take the proposal to voters, even without Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s approval.
Snyder vetoed similar legislation last year, citing concerns about government overreach in requiring optional riders for abortion coverage in private insurance plans and a lack of exceptions for rape and incest. But Snyder could be left out of the picture this time because voter-initiated legislation is veto-proof.
Barbara Listing, president of Right to Life of Michigan, which is seeking the initiative, told reporters that “people don’t want to pay for other people’s abortions.”
Under the proposal, individuals and businesses would have to buy an optional rider for elective abortion coverage under all private and public insurance plans. Abortions would be covered under primary plans when the mother’s life is at risk, but not in cases of rape and incest.
The Board of State Canvassers agreed Wednesday that the petition form started by a group called No Taxes for Abortion Insurance complies with state law. The group now has to collect more than 250,000 valid signatures by next spring. If enough signatures are deemed valid, the Legislature will have 40 days to pass or reject the proposal before it is placed on the ballot. Whether it’s approved by the Legislature or voters, it wouldn’t need Snyder’s signature to become law.
Asked about the proposal in an interview with The Associated Press in Washington Wednesday Snyder said it is part of the democratic process.
“Michigan’s constitution provides for this and I believe in following the constitution ... I don’t take it personal or anything. I just view it as democracy,” he said.
The abortion language was included in a broader bill last session that would have ended Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s tax-exempt status and turn it into a customer-owned nonprofit. Snyder said he made it clear when he vetoed the measure last year that he was open to reconsidering it if it was changed to address his concerns — by removing requirements for supplemental coverage for instances of rape and incest and ensuring that it doesn’t interfere with the private insurance marketplace.
“But they may not have wanted to do that,” he said.
Listing said Michigan would be the 22nd state to put in place such measures before federal Affordable Health Care Act takes effect.
When asked by reporters why people should have to prepare to buy supplemental coverage in case they are raped, Listing said “nobody plans to have ... a car accident, nobody plans to have their homes flooded. They have to buy extra insurance for those things too.”
Backers of Planned Parenthood of Michigan and other opponents of the effort wore pink shirts as they filled the room during the meeting. Planned Parenthood says that optional riders are not a realistic solution because women will rarely buy extra coverage for abortions since “unintended pregnancies are by definition unplanned.”
Barb Byrum, Ingham County Clerk and former Democratic state Representative, said after the meeting that the petition drive is an attack on women’s health.
“This petition makes Michigan less attractive to people, less attractive business,” she said. “This initiative makes it clear that extremists are still pushing legislation and still pushing ballot initiatives in our state. It makes it clear that more women need to run for office.”