right to life

Michigan’s law barring insurance companies from including abortion coverage in basic policies takes effect this week. 

7 insurance companies, including Blue Cross/Blue Shield, will offer an additional rider.

David Waymire is a spokesman for the Michigan Association of Health Plans.      He says most Michiganders get their insurance from self-insured company health plans which are not covered by the law.   

“So there’s really a small number of people that will ever be affected by this law at this point,” says Waymire.

What is it about Decembers in Lansing? Last year, it was right-to-work. This year, the controversy is over a petition initiative, a veto-proof law that will require people to buy separate insurance for abortion coverage. It could not be part of a basic health insurance package in Michigan.

It was an initiated law, put before the GOP-led Legislature by the very, very influential anti-abortion group Right to Life. As we’ve noted before on It’s Just Politics, Right to Life is virtually unrivaled in its ability to organize a petition campaign, and to squeeze votes out of the Legislature, especially when Republicans are in charge.

So, that’s it, right? Law is passed. All done.

Well, not so fast. Because what is begotten by a petition drive can be challenged by a petition drive. Michigan’s pro-choice movement thinks it can take down this new law with a referendum. In fact, meetings have started to try to organize a ballot drive.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It’s Thursday, the day we talk about Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

The state legislature is wrapping up the session this week. On Wednesday, a controversial voter-initiated bill put forward by Right to Life was passed by the Republican majority House and Senate. The bill bans abortion coverage in standard insurance plans, which means Michiganders will have to purchase a separate additional rider if they want abortion covered as part of their insurance plan. This bill does not provide exceptions for rape or incest. It also does not provide an exception when the life of the mother is at risk. A similar bill was vetoed by Governor Snyder last year, but as a voter initiated bill, he doesn’t have that power this time around.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - When lawmakers vote to restrict insurance coverage of abortions in Michigan, it will affect a small number of abortions because the vast majority already are paid for out of pocket.

Health insurance covered fewer than 750, or 3 percent, of 23,000 abortions reported to the state last year.

Peter Martorano / Flickr

In this Week in Michigan Politics, Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss a proposal to block abortions from being covered in basic health plans, how Warren Buffett is backing millions of dollars in an initiative to help small businesses in Detroit, and look to next week when Judge Steven Rhodes will decide if Detroit is eligible for bankruptcy.


The petition drive is the citizens’ direct route to changing laws. It’s part of the state constitution, Article 2, Section 9 (if you want to read it for yourself). The petition-initiated law is not subject to a veto by the governor. If the Legislature refuses to adopt it, the decision goes to voters as a statewide ballot question.

 

Right to Life of Michigan submitted petitions a week ago to initiate a law that would say people could no longer get abortion coverage as part of a basic health insurance plan. Consumers would have to buy separate coverage to get abortions paid for. The only exception would be an emergency abortion necessary to save a woman’s life.

 

“I had a similar bill that came to me that I vetoed,” Governor Rick Snyder reminded folks after the petitions were filed. “And that was the right answer in my view.”

 

Snyder vetoed this language when it was part of a bill sent to him last year by the Legislature because it did not include those rape and incest exceptions. That’s despite the fact that he has identified himself as “pro-life,” that is opposed to abortion, when he ran in  2010.

 

But not sufficiently so for Right to Life (which endorsed another candidate in the 2010 Republican primary.) Right to Life has a ready response when governors veto legislation it supports. So, once again, Right to Life launched a petition drive to enact as an initiated law what Snyder had vetoed.

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.
Photo courtesy of Richardville's office

The Republican leader in the state Senate says he's not yet willing to commit to taking up a measure that would ban insurance companies from including abortion coverage in standard health plans.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville told reporters Tuesday that he doesn't consider it a top priority. He says he still needs time to speak with his caucus about the issue.

The group Right to Life of Michigan turned in more than 315,000 signatures last week to send the measure to the Legislature. Those signatures still need to be certified by a state board. If that happens and lawmakers fail to pass the measure, it will go on the ballot.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Abortion opponents have turned in more than 315,000 petition signatures calling on the Legislature to place new restrictions on health coverage.

The new law would require consumers to buy separate coverage for abortions.

Abortion opponents say they want to make sure that abortion coverage is not automatic when people buy insurance under the new federal healthcare law. The petition-initiated law would require consumers to buy a separate rider for abortion coverage.

Rick Pluta / Michigan Public Radio

A state elections board has given the go-ahead to a petition drive that would enact a restriction on abortions.

The initiative would ban abortion coverage as a part of basic insurance policies.

Instead, customers and businesses that offer employee coverage would have to buy a separate rider for insurance coverage.

The effort seeks to enact a requirement that was vetoed by Governor Rick Snyder.

If the drive succeeds, the Legislature could adopt the law without the threat of a veto.

We’ve got a few serious problems in this state, from the fact that we lost almost a million jobs in the past decade to the inconvenient truth that higher education has become both essential for all and highly unaffordable for a large percentage of us.

Throw in that our largest city is quivering on the brink of state takeover and the Asian carp threat, and you might conclude that our lawmakers had more than enough to keep them busy without veering off into divisive distractions.

msmail / Flickr

The Michigan Senate Transportation Committee is scheduled to review a bill today that would create a specialty license plate to raise money for the Right to Life of Michigan Fund.

According to Right to Life of Michigan, drivers would be able to purchase the specialty plates to support the pro-life cause.

Lawmakers have previously tried to bring up similar legislation, but it has failed. According to mlive.com:

About half the U.S. has "Right to Life" specialty plates, but their roll-out has been contentious. Groups in several states have mounted legal challenges on First Amendment grounds, some successfully, some not. The Supreme Court has let stand state rulings barring production of the plates.

Most recently, in November, a North Carolina judge blocked production of the plates until a legal battle was resolved. The American Civil Liberties Union argued production of the plates constituted "viewpoint discrimination" because there was no corresponding pro-choice alternative.

Michigan State Senator Patrick Colbeck introduced the legislation, also known as Senate Bill No. 600.