This morning I received an email urging me to sign a petition to support a public referendum against Michigan’s so-called “rape insurance” law (officially, the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act), which automatically goes into effect this March. The law bans state insurance from covering abortions unless a woman’s life is in danger, in effect requiring women to purchase private insurance (a separate rider) to cover herself in case of unintended pregnancy—including rape or incest…thus the “rape insurance” nickname. But as Jessica Valenti points out, that moniker makes it too easy for everyone to brush off the fact that the Insurance Opt-Out doesn’t just affect rape victims, it “hurts all women.” Additionally, Michigan is hardly the first or the only state to be enacting such measures; 8 other states have laws restricting private insurance coverage of abortion, 23 restrict coverage by insurance exchanges, 19 restrict coverage for public employees and 14 states have more than one restriction in place. (Guttmacher Institute) While my general reaction to these continued assaults against women—and trust me, they are assaults—is to want to scream and rage and hurl expletives at these often male-dominated legislative groups, this morning my brain screamed a question: Why is it always the woman who has to pay?
It’s clear 2014 will be a year of continued fighting over control over our bodies, and my little think piece isn’t going to change that. But I do have what I believe is at least a simple question that should be brought into play as while these biased laws are in existence. Why should a woman be the sole person who has to pay for a plan to protect herself against an unwanted pregnancy, and more precisely, a pregnancy that occurs through rape or incest? Why shouldn’t the rapist pay? It’s not enough that a woman has to think about rape. It’s not enough when a woman is raped. It’s not enough trauma to go through a rape. It’s not enough to be questioned and examined and to feel ashamed because another person violated and attacked her. It’s not enough when a rape victim finds out that attack resulted in an unwanted pregnancy. It’s not enough that a good portion of this country wants to force her to carry that child to term. It’s not enough that if she is able to get an abortion, she’ll likely have to walk through a crowd of protesters; that she’ll need to be protected to enter the building where she will have to endure yet another traumatic violation of her body and mind. It’s not enough that the man who raped her left her dealing with all these things; she also has to pay money out of her own pocket to pay for the abortion. You know what? Enough.
How about instead of continuing to attack and blame victims of rape or incest, we go after the perpetrator? While we’re continuing the fight to keep control of ourselves, let us hold rapists responsible for their actions. Instead of putting women in the position of having to purchase a rider in the case of a pregnancy through rape or incest, enact a requirement that men who attack women must pay for any resulting abortion.
Meanwhile, it’s not too late for Michigan. A public referendum could put the Opt-Out Act up for statewide vote. If you’d like to get involved, sign the petition, be aware of upcoming votes, and support agencies like Planned Parenthood, who continue to campaign women’s rights.