Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 30, 2013

Editorial: Measure may circumvent constitution


Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Michigan politics have become so extreme that any common ground we may have had — and our ability to compromise for the common good — are long gone.

Today, any bit of political maneuvering, whatever the cause, is fair game. The Legislature almost routinely tacks spending bills to legislation to make it ballot-proof, essentially erasing voters’ constitutional right to challenge legislation at the ballot box. It’s legal, but it’s a cynical ploy to stifle true democracy.

Now Right to Life of Michigan, through a front group called No Taxes for Abortion Insurance, wants to require women to purchase optional riders to cover abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, and is using similar tactics.

If the group collects 258,088 valid voter signatures it can put the measure on the 2014 ballot; what is more likely — since the ballot issue would almost certainly be defeated — is that the conservative-leaning Republican-controlled Legislature will instead approve the measure, making it law without a vote of the people or Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature.

It’s a legal — if unethical — way to make law outside the legislative process and any input from Michigan voters.

If the process isn’t bad enough, the law is worse. Health insurance plans would in effect be prohibited from covering abortions unless an individual or business purchased a separate rider to pay for it.

Right to Life says that’s a way to allow those opposed to abortion a way out of paying for abortions for others, presuming some private health insurance plans will have taxpayer subsidies starting in 2014 when the federal Affordable Care Act kicks in.

Businesses could buy abortion riders for employees but how many would? And who knows what such riders may cost? Insurance companies would no doubt love to get out of paying for abortions, and this is a way out.

The law, of course, doesn’t extend to those whose lifestyles create risk everyone else pays for, such as people who smoke cigarettes or are obese or play risky sports or ride motorcycles without a helmet.

Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a bill last year that included similar requirements from the Legislature, which makes it almost certain lawmakers would circumvent Snyder and make it law if enough signatures are collected.

Incredibly, the law would also require women to purchase a rider to cover abortion even in cases of rape or incest. To make a woman who is already a victim of a violent crime bear the child of her rapist or pay for it herself is simply cruel.

Voters must take careful note of any lawmaker who votes to make this initiative law and act accordingly.