The abortion debate leaves Michiganians on all sides heated. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP)
Imagine a burglar breaks into your home and steals what you value most. After the shock of the loss, you file a claim with your homeownerís insurance company, only to be told that you wonít be compensated because you failed to buy a special rider to cover that crime.
Thatís bad enough. Now, imagine being told these things because a special interest group pressured your state into denying coverage for crime victims. It sounds outrageous. Yet that is precisely what our stateís Republican-led Legislature is now considering, following a Right to Life of Michigan petition drive.
Under that initiative, women who become pregnant after a rape would be unable to use their medical insurance to cover an abortion unless they bought a special rider ahead of time. Girls victimized by incest and unable to pay for an abortion would have to bring their fatherís, grandfatherís, brotherís or uncleís child to term. And women who are carrying unviable fetuses wonít be able to use their insurance to end that pregnancy, even though not ending it might prevent them from ever having another child.
In effect, this measure makes being a woman a pre-existing condition. Only women would be forced to buy extra insurance for themselves and their daughters Ė insurance their husbands or sons would never need.
Barely three percent of Michigan residents signed those petitions. That three percent has the ability to make medical decisions for the remaining 97 percent of the stateís population, including women at the most vulnerable point in their lives. No one wants to imagine their own wife or daughter in the desperate situation of a rape victim, but put yourself in the shoes of a woman who is. Would you want a special interest group making medical decisions for you?
If this proposal sounds cruel, thatís because it is.
In fact, the idea is so cruel that even Gov. Rick Snyder, who is anti-choice, vetoed the proposal when it came across his desk last year. At the time of his veto, he said, ďI don't believe it is appropriate to tell a woman who becomes pregnant due to a rape that she needed to select elective insurance coverage, and, as a practical matter, I believe this type of policy is an overreach of government into the private market.Ē
The governor has it right. Itís wrong to tell a woman recovering from a violent, degrading crime that she should have thought ahead. Itís just as wrong to tell a woman who is carrying an unviable fetus that she must carry it to term because she didnít plan for the unthinkable. Our state shouldnít be in the business of heaping insults on top of people already in pain.
Once the state Board of Canvassers verifies petition signatures, the Michigan Legislature will have 40 session days to decide whether to pass a veto-proof law enacting this proposal without needing the governorís signature. If they donít, the measure will be put to a vote of the people as a ballot referendum.
Republicans who lead our Legislature were overwhelmingly endorsed by Right to Life of Michigan in the last election. But in a matter as personal as an abortion, there should be no room for the government to interfere.
I urge Lansing Republicans to demonstrate that they actually are the party of limited government. Government does not belong in this deeply personal space, especially not at the most vulnerable point in a womanís life.
State Rep. Vicki Barnett, D-Farmington Hills, represents Michiganís 37th District.