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Michigan Anti-Choice Lobbyist Likens Abortion Riders to Flood Insurance

Robin Marty

When asked if she thinks people should purchase insurance riders in case they become impregnated by a rapist, Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing replied, "Nobody plans to have their homes flooded."

Michigan lawmakers are considering an initiative that would force people to purchase a separate rider if they want their insurance plans to cover abortion, even for medically indicated abortions and for people who get pregnant from rape. It’s a drastically unpopular piece of legislation, and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has already said he will veto it if it reaches his desk. But for abortion opponents like Barbara Listing, president of Right to Life of Michigan, the policy makes sense. In fact, Listing compared buying an abortion rider to purchasing flood insurance for your home.

Right to Life of Michigan is spearheading the effort to pass the initiative, which that would force abortion coverage out of regular insurance plans and into its own separate rider, regardless of the reason for the abortion “It’s an unpopular provision,” Meghan Groen, director of government relations for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, told Rewire. “Over 60 percent of Michigan and the governor oppose it.”

But the anti-choice group doesn’t need a large number of people to support the idea if it proposes the law via initiative. Instead, it simply needs to get about 260,000 valid voters to sign a petition, then have the legislature approve the bill with a simple majority. If that happens, the governor doesn’t have to sign the bill.

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At a press conference featuring Rebecca Kiessling, a woman conceived as a result of a sexual assault who has become the face of a new plan to ban rape exceptions from abortion coverage bans, Listing argued that if the initiative passes rape victims could plan ahead and buy a rider. When asked if she thinks people should purchase insurance riders in case they become impregnated by a rapist, Listing replied, “Nobody plans to have an accident in a car accident, nobody plans to have their homes flooded. You have to buy extra insurance for those two.”

Of course, Listing isn’t the only person to suggest that women should plan ahead for sexual assault and pregnancy. In 2012, Kansas Rep. Pete McGraaf testified that women should purchase abortion riders on their insurance in case they get raped. “We do need to plan ahead, don’t we, in life?” he said during testimony. “I have a spare tire on my car. … I also have life insurance. I have a lot of things that I plan ahead for.”

Unlike McGraaf and Listing, the people of Michigan are less convinced that women should be forced to purchase separate riders on their insurance just in case there is an unwanted pregnancy as a result of a rape. Reproductive rights advocates, including Planned Parenthood, say they will fight to ensure it is the majority, not the minority, who prevail on this issue. “By pursuing this initiative, extremists in the legislature are trying to go around Gov. Snyder and the will of the majority of Michigan voters,” Groen said in a statement. “Nearly two-thirds of Michiganders think this is outrageous. We are dedicated to making sure that this effort fails.”

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