LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Democrats on Monday announced long-shot legislation to repeal Michigan's law requiring people or businesses wanting abortion insurance coverage to buy an extra policy in advance, an attempt to keep the issue in voters' minds before the November election.
The bills are expected to die in the GOP-controlled Legislature, which approved the law in December after Right to Life of Michigan collected more than 300,000 voter signatures to effectively override a veto by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder a year before.
"It's our job to represent people and stand up and do what we believe is right," said Rep. Sarah Roberts, a St. Clair Shores Democrat, who said lawmakers have heard from concerned residents and health care providers since the measure took effect 2 1/2 months ago.
The law prohibits health plans from paying for elective abortion services unless an inexpensive supplemental policy is bought or a woman's life is at risk. There are no exceptions for rape or incest if the rider is not purchased.
Democrats noted just seven of 45 health insurers in the state are offering the optional rider and only to employers, which means women buying their own insurance either on or off a new government-subsidized health marketplace cannot obtain the additional coverage.
Critics joining Roberts and Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing at a Capitol news conference included Dr. Timothy Johnson with the University of Michigan's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Jennifer Lane of Ann Arbor.
Lane told of how insurance covered her hospitalization for an abortion she had after learning her fetus was missing a part of its brain and likely would not survive to term. If the law had been in place at the time, she said, an already traumatic situation would have been worsened if she and her husband also faced thousands of dollars in medical costs.
The measure does not require women suffering miscarriages or those diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy to have purchased a rider. Yet Johnson said there is uncertainty and confusion in two types of cases - "incomplete" miscarriages where a fetus will not survive but still has a heartbeat, and genetic abnormalities.
"This law has a lot of perverse outcomes, perverse consequences that are causing patients to suffer, causing women to suffer, causing families to suffer, causing marriages to suffer," he said.
Twenty-five states have opted out of covering abortions on the insurance exchange. Michigan is the ninth to also restrict private plans from covering the procedure.
Right to Life spokeswoman Pam Sherstad said the law is "clearly written" to state that women experiencing miscarriages do not have to have purchased separate abortion coverage.
"Women need to know they will be cared for," she said.