POLITICS
12/12/2013 02:43 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

New Michigan Abortion Law Requires Women To Buy Something That Doesn't Even Exist Yet

Michigan women will have to purchase a separate rider if they want their health insurance to pay for an abortion, after the state's Legislature on Wednesday banned most public and private plans from covering abortion as a medical procedure.

Women must buy the rider before they become pregnant in order to have abortion coverage, once the law goes into effect in March. Women who become pregnant through rape or incest must already have the rider in place for an abortion to be covered, leading some opponents to dub the riders, "rape insurance."

But currently, insurance abortion riders don't actually exist in Michigan, the law's opponents say.

"There are no riders in Michigan that we are aware of," Lori Lamerand, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan, told The Huffington Post. "There are some riders available for some procedures, but there are certainly no riders for abortions here."

Elizabeth Nash is the state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, a nationally recognized nonprofit reproductive health institute. "The riders don't exist," she told The Huffington Post. "There's no cost information. The riders just don't exist."

Michigan is the ninth state to restrict public and private insurance plans from covering abortions, Nash told The Huffington Post. Only two of those states have providers with abortion riders available for purchase. Dave Waymire, PR consultant for the Michigan Association of Health Plans, also told The Huffington Post that the group does not know which insurance companies currently provide or would offer abortion riders in the future, and how they would be priced.

There were about 23,000 reported abortions in Michigan in 2012, according to the Associated Press. Less than 4 percent were paid for by insurance. Women enrolled in Medicaid must pay out of pocket for abortions, except when their lives are at risk, or if they are victims of rape or incest.

According to a study published in the scientific journal Women's Health Issues, a typical first-trimester abortion costs around $500. Most women incurred ancillary expenses for transportation, lost wages and child-care costs, making the abortion more expensive. According to the study, 14 percent of women put off paying rent; another 16 percent delayed buying food in order to pay for the procedure.

Those costs can skyrocket in the second or third trimester to as much as $10,000, especially if the procedure is done in the hospital, Lamerand told The Huffington Post. Those procedures won't be covered by insurance in Michigan either.

"An early trimester procedure is one thing, but if you consider a family that had to abort a child due to a medical issue -- at a time when a family would be experiencing an incredible tragedy, we will just be adding insult to injury," she said.

After Gov. Rick Snyder (R) vetoed a similar bill in 2012, saying it wasn't "appropriate to tell a woman who becomes pregnant due to rape that she needed to select elective insurance coverage," Right to Life Michigan mounted a challenge, gathering 300,000 signatures on a petition (4 percent of the state's population). That forced the bill back to the Republican-controlled Legislature, which approved it Tuesday night; it does not need the governor's signature. Had legislators vetoed the bill, it would have been subject to a statewide vote in 2014.

Opponents of the legislation, like Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing), who called the law "misogynistic" and "extreme" in a powerful floor speech Tuesday night about her own rape, may have some recourse. The Detroit Free Press reported that the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups are discussing a coalition to mount another abortion petition drive -- this time to repeal the new law.

But Lamerand was extremely cautious about mounting a petition drive, given the resources needed to get the measure on the statewide ballot. A successful ballot initiative could cost $3 million, she said.

"That would take an extreme amount of resources to mount, and those resources may be better utilized to help women who are now not going to be able to afford their procedure," she said.

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