Fed Up, Two States Fight Back on Push to Keep Women Pregnant

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 its 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.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven10 months ago


Jerome S
Jerome S10 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

I am amazed that Ohio would have such an open-minded view going for signing. Michigan's option is very demeaning. Women have to pay for rape insurance when it is the man who causes the rape. I think the men need to pay for the insurance... However, doubtful either would pass.

Tammy D.
Tammy D3 years ago

ugh. Can we just stop arguing about abortion? It's so exhausting. Where is the middle ground? In my mind, it's in effective planning in the pre-pregnancy stage. Women (and men) should have easy and affordable/free access to birth control pills and devices. Young girls and boys need better education about their bodies and how they work. Rape should not go unpunished, and those people should have mandatory community service and therapy. In my mind, all tax payers should pay in to provide free/cheap 'family planning', because it is tax payers who will ultimately end up paying for the lack of planning, one way or another.

pam w.
pam w3 years ago

Karen H. makes an excellent point....religion has been used to control women in this country for decades!

It's time to take back our bodies and our reproductive lives!


Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert3 years ago

Ohio and Michigan will be moving back firmly into the Blue column within 10 years and the Greedy Oil-Addled Pharisees know it. So they're trying to do as much damage as possible before they get tossed out on their collective asses

Karen H.
Karen H3 years ago

Just because a person thinks something is "right" doesn't give him or her the right to make a decision for someone else.
As late as the 1980s Native American women were being given hysterectomies without their consent. They would go to a doctor for appendicitis or another ailment and the doctor would perform a complete hysterectomy. Why? To limit births in a selected population.
This was because some people thought that was "right".

ERIKA S3 years ago


Vasu M.
.3 years ago

"Fetal pain" legislation makes sense if you accept *sentience* or the ability to feel pain as the criterion for personhood, rather than membership in the human species. Animals feel pain, too!

Jeremy Bentham wrote: "...a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as more conversable animal, than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they *suffer*?"

As Peter Singer points out, "All the arguments to prove man's superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: in suffering the animals are our equals."

In Animal Liberation, Peter Singer writes:

"The capacity for suffering and enjoyment is a prerequisite for having interests at all, a condition that must be satisfied before we can speak of interests in a meaningful way. It would be nonsense to say that it was not in the interests of a stone to be kicked along the road by a schoolboy. A stone does not have interests because it cannot suffer. A mouse, on the other hand, does have an interest in not being kicked along the road, because it will suffer if it is."

Vasu M.
.3 years ago

A rational case exists for the rights of preborn humans. The case for animal rights, based on sentience, is stronger and more readily apparent. In an article on animal rights entitled "Just Like Us?" appearing in the August 1988 issue of Harper’s, bioethicist Art Caplan was willing to seriously discuss the rights of animals, but warned:

"...if you cheapen the currency of rights language, you’ve got to worry that rights may not be taken seriously. Soon you will have people arguing that trees have rights and that embryos have rights..."

Dr. Tom Regan, the foremost intellectual leader of the animal rights movement and author of The Case for Animal Rights, notes that animals:

"...have beliefs and desires; perception, memory, and a sense of the future, including their own future; and emotional life together with feelings of pleasure and pain; preference and welfare interests; the ability to initiate action in pursuit of their desires and goals; a psychophysical identity over time; and an individual welfare in the sense that their experiential life fares well or ill for them, logically independent of their being the object of anyone else’s interests."