LANSING – An extremely controversial law that mandates women – and only women – buy extra health insurance in order to have full health care coverage takes effect today, setting back women throughout Michigan and hampering Michigan’s comeback efforts. The law, based on a Michigan Right to Life citizen’s initiative, demands that women buy extra insurance to cover medical procedures that would preserve a woman’s health during a miscarriage or end a pregnancy that is the result of a rape or incest. The law not only places a burden on women, but also on small businesses that want to offer employees full health care coverage by increasing their costs. At the same time, it discourages talented workers from locating or remaining in Michigan.

“This law unfairly punishes women simply for being women,” said Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright (D-Muskegon), chairwoman of the Women’s Democratic Caucus. “Women deserve the same access to full health care as men receive, but only women are told they must buy extra insurance to get it. This law is an attack on women’s health and their economic security, and it is an embarrassment to the state of Michigan.”

The law was passed by the state Legislature in December, after Republicans caved in to pressure from Michigan Right to Life. Had Republicans not capitulated to special interest demands to pass the law, the proposal would have been put to a vote of the people in the November election. Instead of giving all voters in Michigan the ability to decide, the controversial law was instead decided by Republican legislators and the 3 percent of Michigan’s population who signed the Right to Life petition. According to polling, the majority of Michiganders asked disapproved of the law, which was so extreme it was previously vetoed by two Republican governors – John Engler and Rick Snyder – and goes so far as to punish women who need a medical procedure to preserve their health when a wanted pregnancy ends in a miscarriage.

“Women’s health is a critical issue, not a political football to be tossed around by special interest groups and politicians. Now, there will be no peace of mind for women who become pregnant by rape or incest and are further victimized by this new law that will require them to pay out-of-pocket if they decide they don’t want to continue a pregnancy that resulted from such a violent act,” Rep. Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores) said. “And, unfortunately, many women who are prone to high-risk pregnancies will have no peace of mind knowing that their desire to have a baby may have to be balanced against incurring tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills if their insurance company does not provide a rider or they did not purchase a rider prior to their pregnancy.”

With the law now in effect, small businesses that want to offer full health care coverage are also paying the price. Making the health care riders available to employees adds to the health care costs of a small business and women. Additionally, not every health care insurer in Michigan offers these women’s health riders. This puts companies that offer full health care coverage as a recruiting tool at a disadvantage when talented workers compare job opportunities in Michigan to those in other states, and can force uncomfortable conversations between employers and employees.

“A law that disrespects women and discourages skilled and talented workers from calling Michigan home is wrong for our state. At a time when we should be doing everything we can to return opportunity and economic growth to Michigan, we are being held back by this punitive and archaic law that oppresses women and hurts small businesses,” Rep. Pam Faris (D-Clio) said. “When the Republicans imposed this law on the people of Michigan, they did so at the expense of women and our state economy.”