Mich. Conservatives Will Regret Push for Abortion Coverage Ban, Opponents Warn

December 16, 2013 — Michigan Democrats and abortion-rights advocates who oppose the state's recently approved ban on most abortion coverage said Republicans will pay the price in the 2014 election for supporting the bill, the AP/Detroit Free Press reports (Eggert, AP/Detroit Free Press, 12/15).

Both chambers of the Legislature approved the bill on Wednesday, with most Republicans supporting it and most Democrats voting against it. Under the state constitution, the measure will become law 90 days after the legislative session ends, without the governor's signature.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) vetoed similar legislation last year, but Right to Life of Michigan launched a citizen petition drive to put the proposal before the Legislature.

The legislation does not apply when a woman's life is in danger or to Medicaid, which must cover abortions in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment. Individuals and employers will be able to purchase separate riders to cover abortion. However, the bill prohibits the purchase of the riders if a woman already is pregnant, even if the pregnancy resulted from incest or rape. Further, employers will be able to choose whether to offer the riders in their policies, which might leave some women without the option of purchasing one (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/12).

Possible Ballot Measure

Opponents of the bill are considering a ballot measure to repeal or override it. If they collect enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot, the vote would coincide with the November re-election campaign for current lawmakers.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said voters likely would support a repeal and noted that in some GOP-leaning districts, 60% to 70% of poll respondents oppose the coverage ban.

ACLU lobbyist Shelli Weisberg said, "[Respondents] didn't see this as an abortion issue. They saw it as a coverage issue, as a privacy issue, as an issue that deals with commerce and not legislation. They didn't want the Legislature trying to interfere with medical decisions."

However, Republican strategist Jeff Timmer questioned if the abortion debate would have an effect in November and noted that Michigan voters in 1988 upheld a law prohibiting public funding of abortion services for welfare recipients.

Timmer said, "The Democrats and the left and pro-choice groups are not going to want to bring an initiative referendum that puts the focus back on health care" (AP/Detroit Free Press, 12/15).