Petition would restrict Mich. abortion coverage

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan abortion foes on Friday moved to the brink of banning abortion coverage from health plans unless a woman purchases a separate policy by submitting more than the required number of signatures to get the proposal before a receptive Legislature.

If the secretary of state deems enough of the 315,477 signatures valid, the Republican-controlled Legislature can vote on the proposal, likely by the end of the year. It would go to voters in November 2014 if lawmakers reject it, but a majority of House and Senate members have signed the petition, said Ed Rivet, legislative director of Right to Life of Michigan, which is leading the effort.

“We have a high level of confidence,” Rivet said. “This is straight democracy enacting a law.”

The secretary of state’s office said Friday it will take about two months to go over a sample of the signatures. Supporters turned in about 60,000 more than required.

GOP Gov. Rick Snyder last year vetoed similar legislation tucked into a broader bill, citing concerns about government overreach in requiring optional riders for abortion coverage in private insurance plans and a lack of exceptions for rape and incest. But Snyder would be left out of the picture this time because voter-initiated legislation is veto-proof.

Under the proposal, individuals and businesses would have to buy an optional rider for elective abortion coverage under all private and public insurance plans. Abortions would be covered under primary plans when the mother’s life is at risk, but not in cases of rape and incest.

While passage is likely, critics aren’t planning to let it happen quietly.

“Requiring women to plan ahead for the possibility of getting raped by purchasing an optional insurance rider is just flat-out offensive,” Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer’s spokesman, Robert McCann, said in a statement. “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.”

Liberal-leaning political advocacy group Progress Michigan called the campaign “unconscionable.” It said in a statement that “women should not be saddled with extra costs for insurance coverage in case they’re a victim of a crime” and that Right to Life is “circumventing the political process.”

Rivet said riders are common in insurance policies, adding supporters simply seek “a single policy for the entire industry that says, ‘If you’re going to have abortion coverage it’s by an optional rider.’”

He said Michigan would be the 24th state to put such measures in place before the federal health care law takes effect Jan. 1.

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