Michigan Ban on Automatic Insurance Coverage of Abortion Initiative (2014)

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The Michigan Ban on Insurance Coverage of Abortion Initiative was not on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Michigan as an indirect initiated state statute because the legislature approved the initiative on December 11, 2013.[1] The measure prohibited both public and private health insurance companies from covering abortions unless individuals purchase a supplemental policy. Plans could not be purchased once a woman had already become pregnant, including in cases of miscarriage, incest or rape. The initiative does, however, allow primary health plans to cover abortions in cases where the mother’s life is endangered.[2][3]


The Ban on Insurance Coverage of Abortion Initiative was an indirect initiated state statute, meaning that the initiative did not go straight to the ballot following signature verification, but to the legislature. The legislature can either agree to adopt the initiative as law or place the initiative on the ballot. In Michigan, indirect initiative state statutes do not need the governor's signature. On December 11, 2013, the Michigan Senate and Michigan House of Representatives approved the initiative as law.[4]

Senate vote

December 11, 2013 Senate vote

Senate Vote
Approveda Yes 27 71.05%

House vote

December 11, 2013 House vote

House Vote
Approveda Yes 62 56.88%


The Michigan Legislature previously passed similar legislation twice to prohibit health insurance plans from covering abortions without a supplemental insurance. However, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) vetoed the legislation both times.[2] Snyder who describes himself as "pro-life" said that the legislation "went too far" due to the bill's treatment of abortion in cases of rape and incest and the bill's interference with the private health insurance market.[4]


The measure was sponsored by the group No Taxes for Abortion Insurance.[5]



The following are legislative officials who voted for the initiative:[6]


  • Right to Life of Michigan[7]


  • State Representative Nancy Jenkins (R-57) argued, “I don’t think elective abortion should be a part of insurance. This doesn’t affect access to abortion. It will still be legal when this law takes effect. Who should be required to pay? Not Michigan taxpayers.”[2]
  • State Representative Margaret O'Brien (R-61) said, "I respect the seriousness of the emotions. I went through an unplanned pregnancy. I've counseled people who've been raped that has resulted in pregnancies. ... But I've also seen women who've embraced those babies through rape and seen that that child shouldn't be punished for the horrendous act that happened to them."[8]




The following are legislative officials who voted against the initiative:[6]



Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-23) denounced the initiative in a speech following the measure's passage.

  • Whitmer said, "As I was considering what to say in opposition to the rape insurance proposal in front of the Senate today, I made the decision to speak about my own story publicly for the first time ever. It was the story of the time I was raped while in college. It’s something I’ve coped with privately for many years now, but I felt it was important for my Republican colleagues to see the face of the women they’re hurting with their actions today. Thank god I didn’t get pregnant as the result of my own attack, but I can’t even begin to imagine now having to think about the same thing happening to my own daughters.”[9]
  • She argued, "The Republican male majority continues to ignorantly and unnecessarily weigh in on important women’s health issues which they know nothing about."[2]
  • Whitmer denounced the measure as "a special interest group’s perverted dream come true.”

Other arguments against the initiative included:

  • State Representative Collene Lamonte (D-91) told a story about her miscarriage following the initiative’s approval. She stated, “I would have been denied this procedure. Or we would have had an expensive medical bill that would have bankrupted us. This is an issue that should be openly debated. Please don’t silence the voices of the people in our state.”[9]
  • Journalist Susan Milligan said, "What makes the Michigan law so hateful and misogynist is that it has little to do with actual cost; abortions don’t cost as much as chemotherapy and tumor-removal surgery. It’s about shaming women, insisting that they brand themselves with a big scarlet letter A on themselves to show they think they may be just the sort of irresponsible whores who might need abortion access at some point."[2]


Planned Parenthood, NOW and the ACLU all vocalized the possible option to seek a veto referendum on the abortion insurance initiative.[10] The referendum’s supporters would have had to collect 161,305 signatures by mid-March, roughly 90 days after the end of the legislative session.[11] Ultimately, the potential veto referendum was abandoned for 2014, as abortion rights groups concluded that they did not have enough time or resources to collect signatures. Rana Elmir of the ACLU said, “The timing is just not right for a referendum or initiative at this point. Our research indicates that there's a growing dissatisfaction and frustration in Michigan with regards to government overreach into women and their family's private lives, but rather than put our resources or efforts into a one-off referendum or initiative, the goal will be to create a broad strategy that addresses this growing frustration with politicians involving themselves in women's lives.”[12]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing the initiative process in Michigan

On May 22, 2013, the Board of State Canvassers approved the measure for circulation, allowing supporters to begin collecting signatures.[13]

Supporters needed to collect 258,088 valid signatures by May 28, 2014 in order to qualify the initiative for the legislature or ballot. Petitioners submitted approximately 316,000 signatures.[4]

See also

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