LANSING (AP) — Michigan’s Republican-controlled Legislature could soon decide to ban abortion coverage from all health insurance plans unless a separate policy is bought, and this time abortion foes will not have to worry about a veto from Gov. Rick Snyder.
The state election board on Monday certified that Right to Life of Michigan collected enough signatures to immediately put its citizen-initiated law before lawmakers, a majority of whom who have signed the petition, according to backers. Legislators would have 40 days while in session to enact or reject the proposed law, or propose a different measure. If passed, the governor could not veto the law. If not passed, the measure would go to voters next November.
Supporters want Michigan to prevent tax subsidies from covering abortions in plans offered through a new insurance market under the federal health care law. The proposal also would apply to employer and individual plans, a reason the Republican governor last year vetoed similar legislation tucked into a broader bill. He cited concerns about government overreach in requiring optional riders for abortion coverage in private plans and a lack of exceptions for cases of rape and incest.
“The Affordable Care Act is the largest intrusion into the private health care market ever,” said Right to Life public affairs associate Genevieve Marnon. “Because of that, the insurance companies themselves have asked for one set of rules, thus the reason that (abortion coverage) is being moved as a standard built-in benefit in all the plans.”
Twenty-three states restrict abortion coverage in plans offered through their insurance exchanges, including eight that prohibit private plans from covering the procedure. Seven of the eight allow consumers to purchase supplemental abortion coverage for a fee, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
Democrats, who don’t control either chamber of the Legislature, called on their Republican colleagues to ignore the proposed measure and leave the matter to voters to decide.
“The idea of women having to purchase ‘rape insurance’ for themselves or their daughters is flat out offensive,” said Robert McCann, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats. “If Republicans truly believe in the will of the people, they’d let this issue go to the ballot next November, where the people of Michigan will unquestionably vote it down.”
Under the proposal, individuals and businesses could buy an optional rider for 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 Legislature has passed four citizen-initiated laws before, including three meant to curtail abortion rights.
Senate Republicans are expected to discuss the proposal Wednesday, a spokeswoman said.
“We are reviewing the process and determining how best to proceed,” said Ari Adler, spokesman for Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger of Marshall. “Speaker Bolger has voted for this previously, but we now need to review it in the context of a citizens initiative.”
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