In the last three years, hundreds of bills have been introduced to restrict abortion and birth control access, from full out abortion bans to defunding family planning providers and banning insurance from covering abortion and birth control. Red states, especially in the midwest and south, have been the hardest hit by these restrictions, which grow more over the top with each legislative session (banning IUDs, anyone?).
Luckily, those states are getting fed up, and they are fighting back.
Two bills being introduced could have a major impact on changing the discourse in the legislature and in the general public. In Michigan, House Bill 5697 and Senate Bill 1010 will repeal the recently passed legislation that makes it impossible for victims of sexual assault to use their own personally purchased health insurance to cover an abortion, instead making all people purchase supplemental insurance riders and plan ahead if they want to be sure that they can terminate pregnancies as part of their health care package.
Referred to during debate as the “rape rider,” because by refusing to allow pregnancy as a result of sexual assault to be terminated, as most insurance policies traditionally do, it in effect would make someone pay an additional premium on the off chance that she might become pregnant as a result of sexual assault.
The new bills would negate that law, which is not only cruel but is in many cases impossible for insurance purchasers to even find riders to fulfill. “[A]lthough the law requires women to buy an extra insurance rider to get comprehensive health coverage, it does not mandate that insurance companies make these policies available,” explains Electablog, who then quotes bill sponsor Democratic Rep. Sarah Roberts saying that, “Of the 42 health insurers in Michigan, only seven offer this rider. In addition, women who buy insurance on their own are not able to get it because it’s only available through employer health plans.”
Ohio is also introducing a roll-back style bill, and this one is even more ambitious in scope. The Doctor-Patient Relationship Protection Act would codify one simple idea — that legislators have no right inserting themselves or their personal beliefs into private health decisions.
Stating that “This bill gives Ohio’s patients the confidence that their doctors are giving them information they can trust to make informed decisions about their health care,” bill supporters drafted it to allow doctors to not be forced to perform unnecessary ultrasounds, tell pregnant people how likely the embryo or fetus would be to survive to birth if an abortion wasn’t undergone, and otherwise insert legislative beliefs that abortion is morally unacceptable.
Michigan’s bill is a long shot to pass, considering the make up of the legislature when it comes to reproductive autonomy, and Ohio’s bill is even less likely. Yet both of the laws serve a very important purpose when it comes to refocusing the discussion around abortion and birth control access. In each case, it forces abortion opponents to really show how far out of the mainstream they are when it comes to the issue.
Republicans (and pro-life Democrats as well) continue to cite those who support the right to an abortion as “extreme” for being against laws such as parental consent or previability 20 week abortion bans, using them as a distraction from their own push to limit such basic, minimal exceptions as allowing someone who was impregnated via assault from being able to easily terminate her pregnancy. They continue to pass measures so limiting that they are repeatedly (and successfully) challenged in court, yet in public only discuss “women’s safety.”
What these types of bills, Quixiotic or not, do is bring the conversation back where it needs to be. It makes every abortion opponent go on record on two simple facts: that they want to make medical decisions even if it undermines or overrules a medical professional and a patient’s idea of what is best in that situation, and that they think that a victim of rape is best off if she gives birth to that child.
Most people disagree with both of those statements. They need to know that their politicians, who are supposed to represent their interests, are not doing so, and are hiding behind “fetal pain” and “patient safety” to mask it.
Kudos, Michigan and Ohio, for fighting back. Every state in the country needs to do exactly the same thing, even if it is destined to fail. Let’s change the conversation back, this session, and every session from here on out.
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