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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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Katie Steen: Abort problematic politics

By Katie Steen, Columnist
Published March 13, 2014

Yesterday, the misleadingly titled “Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act” went into effect in Michigan. I say misleading because, in order for women to have abortion coverage included in an insurance plan, we must now pay extra in the form of a rider. In other words, we must opt in. And the only reason we’d opt in to pay extra for abortions is if we plan on having an abortion in the future (or perhaps multiple abortions, if we’re trying to get as much bang for our buck with this abortion rider).

The only thing is, no one really plans on having an abortion. And this act extends even to incidents of rape and incest (there’s a reason people are calling it the “rape insurance” bill). State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer — who is a survivor of sexual assault herself — spoke about the bill in December, articulating the absurdity of insuring an abortion: “(The bill) tells women that were raped … that they should have thought ahead and bought special insurance for it.”

However, I’m going to avoid calling it the “rape insurance bill,” mainly because it takes away from the fact that women get abortions for a number of reasons, and that rape need not be the only acceptable reason for an abortion.

Ultimately, this act is coercive, intrusive, utterly unnecessary and absurd in its premises and it will not affect me.

It will not affect me because I, like many of the students at this University, am privileged in a number of ways that enable me to get an abortion, insurance or no insurance. I live in a county with an abortion clinic. That in itself is something to be proud of — only about 14 percent of Michigan counties have an abortion clinic. I could shell out the $300 to $600 it costs to have an early abortion — and if I couldn’t, my parents could help me out. I have parents and friends who would support my decision to terminate a pregnancy. I have parents and friends I would feel comfortable talking to about my abortion in the first place.

But what about the women in Michigan who are not as privileged as I am? Who is this bill really affecting?

Only about 3.3 percent of abortions in Michigan are paid with health insurance. So why do Michigan Right to Life advocates even care about insurance covering abortion?

This bill is an instance of pro-lifers grabbing onto literally any scrap of abortion legislature possible, and intentionally trying to fuck it up just for the sake of fucking it up. Only about 4 percent of Michigan voters — specifically, the members of Right to Life of Michigan — voted on this bill by creating a citizen’s petition, which doesn’t require the governor’s approval. Gov. Rick Snyder had actually already vetoed the bill, deeming it “an overreach of government into the private market.”

I’ve avoided writing about abortion because I know it’s such a charged issue, and it can be next to impossible to change the opinion of those on either side of the issue. Maybe I’ve given up on trying to change people’s minds, and instead I can only express a mixture of rage and hopeless disappointment. I can recite statistics and plea with heartfelt anecdotes, but ultimately, I feel it is futile to try and sway the beliefs of pro-life people, just as I will never not support every woman’s unobstructed right to an abortion.

I want to finish with a speech that I received in an e-mail from Senator Whitmer — one that perfectly articulates my disgust toward the overwhelming minority who passed this bill. This is part of the speech that she would have delivered to her Republican colleagues had they not adjourned the Senate today.

Senator Whitmer wrote:

“As this horrible law takes effect today, I want you to remember what you did.

“The next time you read a story in the news about a woman being raped, remember that you turned your back on her and told her that she doesn’t deserve every available medical option that’s available to her.

“When you hear of a woman facing a difficult pregnancy, one that may sadly end prematurely, remember that you told her that her health and well-being is less important than your ability to get the endorsement of a radical special-interest group.

“And when women from across the state ask you why you would do something so offensive, remember that you had a chance to stand up for them and put their interests ahead of the absolute worst of what politics can be, and you chose not to.”

Katie Steen can be reached at katheliz@umich.edu.