Though Gov. Rick Snyder has previously vetoed a bill with similar provisions, this initiative was brought before the Legislature by a Right to Life petition that garnered 315,477 signatures —around 4 percent of our state’s voters.
And, as a priest, I feel compelled to say that this bill is immoral and cruel.
The new law will require not only that women purchase this coverage separately, but that they purchase it before they are pregnant. There are no exceptions for any circumstances — not even rape or incest.
Thus, this bill means that, in the State of Michigan, if a woman is raped she cannot have the abortion covered by her regular insurance and must pay out-of-pocket for it. If a young girl is violated by a relative and winds up pregnant by incest, she will have to pay out-of-pocket for an abortion. If a woman is pregnant and suffers severe complications that put her life and the life of her unborn child both in jeopardy, she will have to pay out-of-pocket to have an abortion that would save her own life.
No matter the circumstance, unless the separate rider is purchased in advance, there can be no insurance coverage for women placed in these horrible situations.
The measure passed our Legislature despite the powerful and gripping stories of several women legislators, including Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, who revealed that she had been raped 20 years ago while she was in college.
I want to be very clear: I agree with my own church’s teaching that abortion is always a tragedy — but it is not a black-and-white question. Scripture itself acknowledges that life in the womb is different than life outside the womb (see the different penalties in Exodus 21:22–25).
That said, we should absolutely find just ways to lower the amount of abortions that happen through increased education, contraception and social programs. However, this law uses money as a coercive force upon women in painfully difficult situations. It creates a situation where, once more, women who have money will have access to health care and freedom to make their own choices, but women in poverty will be forced to follow the misguided will of our Legislature — no matter the horrific situation that resulted in their pregnancy.
This is wrong. This is reprehensible. And the fact that this has been supported by so-called Christian organizations makes my face turn red with shame.
I call upon all citizens of our state, and in particular all Christians in our state, to stand up and call for the repeal of this cruel law.
Instead of using money as a coercive force, instead of forcing women to make the choices some people want them to make, let’s work as a state to create communities where women never feel like abortion is their only option. Let’s pass laws raising the amount of money we provide for young families and single mothers in low-income households. Let’s make our churches places of grace and welcome where women do not feel like shame in church makes this their only option.
And, God help us, let’s never put a woman who has been raped, who has been the victim of incest, or whose very life is in danger in the even more horrible situation of realizing that her insurance will not cover her abortion.
We can do better — and the justice and love of God calls us to be a very different community than the one created by this law.
The Very Rev. Jared C. Cramer serves as rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven and as dean of the Lakeshore Deanery of the Diocese of Western Michigan.