It was approximately two years ago when Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan (R) vetoed a bill that would require all women to purchase a separate coverage on their health insurance for abortions, including those procedures performed in cases of sexual assault or incest. Citing that he did not believe “it is appropriate to tell a woman who becomes pregnant due to a rape that she needed to select elective insurance coverage,” Snyder was able to temporarily stymie the growth of what I believe to be an archaic and barbaric policy built on a foundation of economic avarice and blunt sexism.
Despite Snyder’s efforts to suppress the tsunami of distorted rape culture, however, the measure was passed by state legislators in December of 2013, after the anti-abortion group Right to Life of Michigan obtained over 300,000 signatures on a petition to force a second vote on the measure. Since then, the state of Michigan has become more than a small mitten on the United States map (or the home of the infamous University of Michigan Wolverines). Indeed, Michigan has become a representation of a skewed societal norm of sexual assault. And while I adore the state for its natural beauty and educational opportunities, I cannot bring myself to tolerate a law that further reprimands those who have already gone through more than any individual—male or female—should have to endure.
While my status as a male undoubtedly makes it difficult for me to understand the trauma that female victims of sexual assault experience, I cannot help but feel that this bill—formally known as the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act—— is nothing less than a political manifestation of gender-based xenophobia. The idea that women must anticipate sexual assault—or that parents have to even contemplate the grotesque idea of purchasing “rape insurance” for their daughters— radiates the message that rape is still a victim’s problem. Yet, as Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing, MI) pointed out in her protest against the measure last year, “[this bill] is anything but a citizen’s initiative. It’s a special interest group’s perverted dream come true.”
This bill, even a year after its institution, is as important as ever because it serves as a vehement reminder of the fact that even in 2014 there are holes in the grand cheese wheel of sexual assault convictions; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for example, indicated in a 2012 crime report that only a quarter of rape police reports result in an arrest. In addition, statistics show that 1 in 5 college-aged women will fall victim to rape during their post-secondary school careers. Rape is stitched into the very fabric of our society. It is a pervasive, highly stigmatized and emotionally gut-wrenching force that can do nothing but harm. Pushing it upon its victims is only hindering the journey towards a redefined perception of sexual assault and relationship violence.
Michigan, however, is not the only state to pass a measure of this nature; eight other states have placed similar blockades on abortion coverage directed at women, and only two of these states—neither of which are Michigan—have made a separate coverage plan for women. So, as of now, women in Michigan—women who are, in many cases, busy working to educate themselves, raise a family or further themselves in their careers— who find themselves pregnant after a rape must pay out of their own pocket to alleviate their pain. Rape is recognized in all fifty states as a crime, so is it not natural for one to expect that a post-rape abortion is covered by the state?
Of course, the debate over abortion is a highly tense and sharp-toothed one in itself. While I will stray away from discussing abortion and my beliefs encompassing the subject, I will say that in cases of rape or incest, women should not find their healing process retarded by their inability to pay for an abortion procedure. Every sexual assault victim should have the ability to escape the pain of sexual violence on his or her own terms. The restrictions presented by the Opt-Out Act are not only asphyxiating; they’re downright offensive.
I dream of an age in which our society refuses to tolerate rape on college campuses. I dream of an age in which women do not have to step out of their house and feel vulnerable to a world that makes so little effort to understand them and their experiences.
I’ll be waiting.
Image: Associated Press