On Friday, Right to Life of Michigan turned in 315,477 signatures on their No Taxes for Abortion Insurance Petition. This provides them with a 22% cushion over the 258,088 signatures they needed to collect.
Read on – these articles do a great job of explaining what’s happening with the petition now, as well as the potential of the petition in the legislature.
CBS Detroit, October 6
Huffington Post, October 4
Freep, October 4
MLive, October 4
Abortion Insurance Restriction Petitions Filed
Gongwer, Oct 4
Insurance coverage for abortions will likely be available only through the purchase of an optional rider in a matter of months.
A Right to Life of Michigan-backed group delivered what it says are 315,477 signatures of registered voters for its voter-initiated legislation that would prohibit insurers from including abortion coverage in the health insurance policies they sell unless it was sold as a separate rider.
Once the Board of State Canvassers verifies that the group met the minimum threshold for the number of signatures to qualify – 258,088 – the Legislature will have 40 days to decide whether to act on the proposal. Department of State spokesperson Fred Woodhams said the review process typically takes about two months. Bureau of Elections staff will draw a sample of the signatures for review.
All expectations are that the Legislature, with strong anti-abortion majorities in the House and Senate, will pass the proposal, making it law. The governor has no opportunity to veto and legislative passage would prevent the proposal from going before voters.
Ed Rivet of Right to Life of Michigan said the signature-gathering process went smoothly with backers obtaining the signatures in four months, two less than the maximum amount of time allowed.
The main challenge was conducting an all-volunteer effort – no one was paid to collect signatures – during the summer when many potential volunteers are on vacation.
“It was a little harder to keep a steady flow through the summer months until we got later then all of a sudden it just took off,” Mr. Rivet said. “Once people got done vacationing, the signatures really started to roll in.”
Overall, Mr. Rivet said there were between 8,000 and 10,000 volunteers working on the effort. He said explaining the proposal to voters was fairly simple. Petition circulators had three standard lines:
- Obamacare (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) was about to take effect;
- Without the optional rider law, abortion coverage would appear in most plans offered in state health insurance exchanges; and
- Tax dollars would subsidize those plans.
“If they supported that concept, it wasn’t hard to find people to sign,” Mr. Rivet said.
The debate about whether the Affordable Care Act is tantamount to taxpayer-funded abortion has been heated. Rules issued by the administration of President Barack Obama call for taxpayer subsidies to be segregated from the privately paid premiums to comport with the Hyde Act prohibition on taxpayer funding for abortions if the coverage goes beyond abortions prompted by rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. However, if the coverage is limited to those three situations, then the funding would not need to be segregated.
Persons buying a plan with abortion coverage would pay a $1 premium with that money set aside to handle abortion coverage.
Mr. Rivet was not buying it, though.
“The other side wants to pretend, ‘this isn’t about tax dollars blah blah blah,'” he said, using a derisive voice when quoting the opposition to the proposal. “That’s ridiculous. There are millions, if you listen to the Obama administration, there are millions of people who are going to sign up for these plans that currently don’t have insurance. They are going to get tax subsidies to buy those plans. And if we don’t pass this law, those plans are going to have abortion coverage in them. If that’s not us with our tax money subsidizing coverage for abortion, I don’t know what is.”
Groups that support abortion rights have denounced that argument as a canard. Jessica Tramontana of the liberal group Progress Michigan called it a cover for the real goal to infringe on women’s health care choices.
Opponents of the legislation have blasted it as the “rape rider” bill and criticized the legislation’s supporters for comments saying purchasing the optional rider would be like buying any other insurance like flood insurance.
“Rape is not an accident, and we’re talking about rape,” Ms. Tramontana said.
To that, Mr. Rivet responded: “If you believe in abortion, support abortion or think you would ever choose one, you should buy the optional rider. We don’t believe in abortion. We don’t support abortion. And we know many taxpayers don’t ever intend to have an abortion. So they shouldn’t be asked to pay for your insurance coverage.”
The requirement to buy the optional rider for coverage extends to all insurance plans, not just those on the exchange.
Mr. Rivet said the group included all plans because insurers made clear during the debate on whether the state would adopt its own exchange they wanted one set of rules.
Now the focus will turn to whether enough valid signatures were submitted. Democratic Party spokesperson Josh Pugh suggested the cushion may not be enough. Mr. Rivet said, however, that the group already had vetted the signatures and scrapped 20,000.
Historically, a 22 percent cushion like the one in this situation should be ample to withstand any disqualifications.
The decision to pursue a voter-initiated act enacted by the Legislature – just four have occurred since the adoption of the 1963 Constitution, three of which involved abortion – stemmed from Governor Rick Snyder vetoing similar legislation last year.
Mr. Snyder said the legislation was interfering with commerce between customers and insurers as well as making no allowance for a situation where a woman was raped and had not purchased the optional rider.
Friday, Mr. Snyder stood by his decision to veto that bill, but reiterated he sees the voter-initiated act as part of democracy.
“They are not involving me in the process given the selection of ways to do that,” he said. “So I’ll leave that to the Legislature to make that decision.”
Ari Adler, spokesperson for House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall), said Mr. Bolger’s stand opposing abortion is well-known.
“When it comes to dealing with this petition, many Michigan citizens stepped forward to let their voices be heard and now we await the review and potential certification from the secretary of state,” he said. “In the meantime, we’re going to research the Legislature’s options and obligations under the state Constitution.”
Senate Democratic spokesperson Robert McCann said opponents of the proposal plan to fight it.
“Requiring women to plan ahead for the possibility of getting raped by purchasing an optional insurance rider is just flat out offensive,” he said. “If Republicans really want to take this latest step in their anti-women crusade, they’d better be prepared for a fight on the Senate floor and an even bigger fight from the people of Michigan next year.”