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Proposal would overturn law requiring Michigan women to buy abortion coverage

Sean Marshall

It was during the lame-duck session late last year when the state Legislature passed a law blocking insurers from paying for abortions as part of general coverage in company health care plans.

Under the law, women would have to buy extra coverage for an abortion, even in cases of rape or when the woman's life is in danger.

The law was passed without a public hearing on the basis of petitions that had been circulated by Right To Life of Michigan. It took effect in March.

Now two lawmakers are trying to get that law overturned. Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, will introduce the measure in the Senate while Rep. Sarah Roberts, D-St. Clair Shores, will do so in the House.

Roberts says their offices have received calls from women who are outraged by this law. Some of the women experienced complications during their pregnancy and believed if the law had been in effect then, their insurance would not have covered treatment.

Roberts says some doctors have said the law has impacted some difficult decisions when pregnancies cannot make it to full term.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists calls the language in the law very vague.

“The law refers to miscarriages. And miscarriage is actually not even a technical medical term,” Roberts said. “It is creating some problems when it comes to physicians having to make decisions with their patients when it comes to some of these complications during pregnancy.”

The law also states that a doctor who performs an abortion and seeks reimbursement can be fined up to $10,000. 

Roberts says her Republican colleagues have said that women can purchase the rider and they will have coverage. However, out of 42 health insurers in Michigan, only seven offer the coverage. This means that women have to get coverage from employers who have policies through one of those seven insurers.

The coverage is not offered on the exchange. So for a woman buying her own coverage, that option is not available.

Roberts said the bills are being referred to a committee.  

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