Michigan's "Rape Insurance" Law Goes Into Effect Today, So That Sucks

If you live in Michigan, then today is not a good day for your rights. Today is the day that the state's infamous "rape insurance" law goes into effect, meaning that abortion will no longer be covered by insurance unless a woman has previously purchased a rider to obtain coverage for abortion services. The law includes no exception for either rape or incest, which is where the "rape insurance" moniker comes from, and which makes it even more awful than it would be anyway.

It more or less ought to go without saying that abortions aren't the sort of thing that women do or should have to plan for years in advance. Women who terminate a pregnancy typically do so because the pregnancy was unplanned, because doctors have diagnosed the fetus with major health problems, or because the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. No one plans to be raped. No one plans for their baby to have birth defects. And by definition no one plans for an unplanned pregnancy. So the idea that women are supposed to have the foresight to know that they will face one of these unforeseeable problems and pay the extra money for an insurance rider is ridiculous.

As The Nation's Jessica Valenti wrote when the bill first passed the legislature in December, this measure hurts all women, not just those who get pregnant as a result of rape or incest. "It's not just sexual assault survivors who need their abortion covered," she writes. Even though there is definitely "an added dimension of cruelty," in refusing such exceptions, that doesn't mean they are the only ones who deserve coverage. "[We] cannot create a hierarchy of 'good' and 'bad' abortions. Or of 'deserving' women," she says, and this is certainly true. Reproductive rights should not be conditional on the circumstances behind the pregnancy or whether or not a woman purchased a rider.

So yes, in a sense Michigan is asking women to pay for "rape insurance" but is also asking women to pay for insurance against birth control failure, against fetal health problems, against all manner of other unexpected issues that can come up in their lives. Oh, but don't worry; I'm sure that women who aren't in a financial position to pay for an insurance rider will be 100 percent capable of paying for prenatal care and the costs of raising a child.

Unfortunately Michigan isn't the only state to ban insurance coverage of abortion. Eight other states — North Dakota, Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, and Oklahoma — also have similar laws, and only Utah includes an exception for victims of rape or incest. So...go Utah?

Clearly, when it comes to giving women access to safe, legal, affordable abortion, this country has a long way to go.