In March, Governor Snyder signed a bill that would not allow insurance companies to provide policies that included abortions as a standard feature. Instead, they would have to sell an additional rider to their policies that would cover abortions. These riders are not offered on individual plans, but rather for small and large group employer plans. Though the measure was signed into law in March of this year, women generally did not see a change in their insurance policy until they had the option of renewal. According to the Department of Insurance and Financial Services spokesperson Caleb Buhs, coverage will stay the same until around this time of the year, September or October, when people generally renew their coverage.
This measure was created at the urging of the Right to Life organization. They initiated the policy through a petition drive, which prompted the legislature to hold a vote within 40 days of the approved citizen based initiative. The Republican controlled legislature approved the measure, passing in the Senate 27-11 and soon after in the House 62-47. The vote was nearly along party lines, as Democrats put up a strong debate about its passage. Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, who was instrumental in coining the phrase ‘rape insurance’, gave an emotional testimony of how she was raped at an early age, and how it was “repulsive” that the legislature would give any thought to enacting rape insurance. On the other side of the aisle, the argument in support of the rider dealt more with how tax money was to be allocated. Republican Representative Amanda Price cited her support for the measure so individuals who are opposed to abortion do not have to forcibly pay premiums for insurance coverage that includes abortion.
The desire to restrict abortion coverage and make it more difficult to seek out an abortion is a trend that is continuing throughout the country. Because a state cannot legally make abortions illegal due to the Roe v. Wade ruling, impediments in the abortion process have been popular policies. In the past three years, states across the country have passed nearly 205 regulations that restrict abortions. Along with this policy movement, a change in public opinion seems to be occurring. According to a recent Gallup poll, 46% of those surveyed called themselves pro-life, which is up from 37% in 1996. It is the goal of the pro-life movement to continue working on policy and public opinion up until abortions are made completely illegal throughout the country.
On a comparative scale, Michigan’s abortion restrictions are not as stringent as several other states, including Ohio. In Michigan, abortion is legal for a woman who is up to 24 weeks pregnant. In Ohio, it is 22 weeks. Also, abortion clinics are closing at a faster pace in Ohio, as they are required to sign into a transfer-agreement with a non-taxpayer funded hospital. Previously, abortion clinics could sign these agreements with a public or private hospital in case complications occur during the abortion. After the state ruled that they cannot make these agreements with hospitals that take public funding, the clinics were forced to reach out to private hospitals for such agreements. It can be inferred that many private hospitals were not inclined to broker these agreements with an abortion clinic, which led to several clinics having to shut down their operations. Because of this, Michigan has seen a larger number of Ohioans cross the border to receive an abortion. It would not be out of the realm of possibility to say that the next policy move on the Right to Life’s agenda would be to counter this occurrence with more restrictions in Michigan.
Similar to the trend in the rest of the nation, rates of abortion in Michigan are decreasing. Per every 1000 women surveyed on a national scale, 16.9 abortions occurred in 2011, while in Michigan 15.3 were reported among the survey sample. This is down from a 1991 survey, where nationally 26.3 abortions were reported while 25 were recorded in Michigan. Individual laws in Michigan vary from other states, and while certain policies adopted or not adopted make getting an abortion easier (as in the Ohio case); different laws provide much bigger road blocks than other states. Michigan is only one of nine states that limit private insurance coverage of abortions. Also, we are only one of nineteen states that have completely banned partial birth abortions. Though Michigan’s mandated counseling sessions prior to an abortion procedure do not cover linkages to breast cancer or fetal pain, the state joins seven other states in addressing possible negative psychological effects an abortion procedure may have. These policies may contribute to the fact that abortion rates in Michigan are lower than the national level and the overall decrease in abortion rates in the state since 1991.
If the momentum continues to swing in favor of the prolife movement, it can be expected that more regulations on abortion will be enacted throughout Michigan and the rest of the country. Along with the optional insurance rider, other restrictions on abortions in Michigan include, among others: the prohibition of the use of telemedicine in an abortion procedure, consent must be given by parents of minors who wish to have an abortion, and any woman who chooses to have an abortion must go through state-directed counselling, then wait another 24 before going through with the procedure. It is unclear what the next set of regulations may be. Perhaps Michigan will adopt a similar policy as Ohio, where abortion clinics can only enter into a transfer agreement with private hospitals. Whatever the case may be, the evidence seems to suggest that more impediments will be made at the policy level in restricting abortions.