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Ear to the Ground

Nearly Half the Country’s Cutting Obamacare Abortion Coverage

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Posted on Nov 25, 2013
crnewbedford (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In 23 states, victims of rape will be forced to foot the bill for an abortion.

While the rest of us were waiting to see whether Obamacare would pass at all, some states had other plans in sight. Thanks to a politician from Michigan who proposed ridding the Affordable Care Act of any provisions for abortion coverage, a loophole was created in the law that allows state legislatures to curb reproductive rights.

The Stupak Amendment (named after former Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak) would have required women to purchase “separate, abortion-only policies.” Stupak’s controversial proposal resulted in a compromise that allows states to opt out of the federal mandate that health care plans cover abortions. Now, anti-choicers in 23 states have been taking advantage of this provision to force women to pay a minimum of $500 to get an abortion, even in the case of rape or incest. And, to add insult to injury, eight of the 23 have even banned coverage by private health insurance plans. Mother Jones discusses how the Great Lakes State, the place where this outrageous idea originated, is trying to join the ranks of these 23 other states:

On Monday, a state elections board is expected to certify a petition drive, organized by the anti-abortion group Michigan Right to Life, in support of a law prohibiting public and private health insurance plans from covering abortions, even in cases of rape or incest. The only exception is when a woman’s life is at risk. Under the law, individuals and employers could purchase an insurance rider specifically covering abortions. But because employers would have the option of not including the rider in their policies, some women might not even have that choice. If Michigan Right to Life is successful, the bill will go to Michigan’s Republican-controlled legislature for a vote….

Last year, Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a proposal identical to the one that is being floated by Michigan Right to Life, but the anti-abortion group is attempting to bypass the governor by using a unique provision in Michigan’s constitution. The state’s constitution allows citizens to send a bill to the legislature with just three percent of the population behind it, after which a straight up-or-down vote is all that’s needed for the legislation to become law. It doesn’t even go to the governor. The best-case scenario for the bill’s opponents is if the GOP-controlled legislature doesn’t bring the legislation to a vote. If no action is taken in Lansing, the measure will become a ballot initiative in the 2014 elections, where an already energized Democratic electorate has a better chance of voting it down.

Women who are covered by Medicaid, which Michigan has expanded to cover 400,000 more people under the Affordable Care Act, would not be affected. States have broad discretion in managing their Medicaid programs but are required to cover abortions in cases of rape, incest, and life-threatening situations. South Dakota has blocked Medicaid coverage of abortions in cases of rape and incest—an apparent violation of federal law that has not yet been challenged by the federal government.

The measure anti-abortion activists are pushing in Michigan could leave many women in a shaky—and increasingly common—situation. About 60 percent of abortions in the United States are already paid for out-of-pocket, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights think tank supported by Planned Parenthood. In theory, the Affordable Care Act allows insurance companies using the exchanges to offer an abortion rider at no additional cost, so long as the funding stream is kept separate from regular plans. But there’s also nothing to require insurance companies to offer those riders at all. In the event that a woman couldn’t obtain a coverage rider—or simply never anticipated needing one—she would have to pay out-of-pocket for [the] procedure…

As a Michigan state senator put it, “This is requiring that people have a plan for an unplanned pregnancy. It’s absolutely ridiculous to make something like this the law.” But it seems legislators in a large chunk of America are hellbent on making women the objects of ridicule, and have no qualms about the devastation they’re wreaking.

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi

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