Abandon hope all ye who enter here: Michigan has created a new ring of hell and it is called “rape insurance.” Call this the nexus of reproductive rights and rape culture.
The Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act passed yesterday by the Michigan Legislature bans all insurance plans from covering abortion unless the woman’s life is in danger. In order to get coverage for an abortion, women will be forced to purchase a separate rider that covers abortions — including in cases of rape and incest.
From Huffington Post:
Supporters of the “Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act” argue that it allows people who are opposed to abortion to avoid paying into a plan that covers it. Opponents have nicknamed it the “rape insurance” initiative, because it would force some women to anticipate the possibility of being raped by purchasing the extra abortion insurance ahead of time.
“This tells women who were raped … that they should have thought ahead and planned for it,” said Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) during debates. “Make no mistake, this is anything but a citizens’ initiative. It’s a special interest group’s perverted dream come true.”
What’s the first rule of rape culture? That we don’t talk about rape culture. What’s the second rule? That rape is inevitable.
Seriously, what could explicitly say that women deserve to be raped more than requiring them to plan ahead by purchasing special insurance to cover their abortions? Will there be provisions in the rape insurance that prohibit coverage if a woman was drinking? Out at night? Wearing jeans that are too tight? Talking to people? Breathing? Because you know insurance companies are masters at denying coverage.
More than 80 percent of private insurance plans currently cover abortions, the New York Times reported, citing research organization the Guttmacher Institute. Eight states have passed similar laws banning the insurance coverage of abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, but only two of them have actually made the abortion rider available to women.
So there’s that.
Meanwhile, even Michigan’s Republican governor isn’t all too happy about this bill. He vetoed it when it first passed last year.
The Michigan State Legislature first passed the measure last year, but Governor Rick Snyder (R) vetoed it, saying he does not “believe it is appropriate to tell a woman who becomes pregnant due to a rape that she needed to select elective insurance coverage.”
More than anything this feels like a page out of The Handmaid’s Tale. What was the first thing that the “Sons of Jacob” did in the newly formed Republic of Gilead? They took away all power and agency from women by attacking their ability to work and their ability to control their reproductive rights. Here we have a bill designed to make life more expensive for women — requiring either special insurance premiums or to pay for abortion expenses out-of-pocket — which hits women in their working lives and in their private lives. Tell me again how this is not about controlling women and reinforcing rape culture?
We really are living in a time in which a person’s geography dictates the level of autonomy and equality afforded them. Everything from insurance requirements, access to Medicare/Medicaid, the number of health care facilities available, voter ID laws, minimum wages, to who can get married is regulated with striking contrasts depending on the borders in which you live. It is clear that our growing geographical disparity in protections, rights, and access is creating not only greater inequality but startling classes of people. Now we don’t just contend with how people are treated differently depending on gender, but also how people who live in Michigan or Texas or Nebraska do not live in quite as equal or free places as, say, Nevada. (And who would think that in any context, Nevada could stand out for positive reasons on any feminist issue?)
This is why now, more than ever, we need to have solidarity with those who struggle against draconian legislation or the impediments to needed change. If we live in a place that is not devastated by TRAP laws, we can’t just shrug our shoulders and thank our lucky stars that we don’t have to deal with that. Those of us who don’t have to worry about having only one abortion provider in our state or whether or not it might close — we have a moral obligation to stand with those who are battling that problem every day. Because these things are moral issues — but not for the reasons that anti-choice activists want people to believe. The autonomy of a person to make decisions about their bodies and their lives is a moral issue! This idea that The State or any other entity gets a say over my reproductive choices before I even do … What is that?!
Get out there and be a part of the solution! Take the spirit of giving at this time of year and write a check to an Abortion Fund or Planned Parenthood or the ACLU or any one of dozens of organizations that are fighting these fights on the ground in all 50 states every day. And for the love of all that is good in this world, educate yourself and vote.