As a Michigander living in DC, I am a constant, vocal ambassador for my home state. My apartment is decked out in University of Michigan paraphernalia and mitten-state décor. I never fail to get misty-eyed at the Pure Michigan commercials, the Tim Allen-narrated, nostalgia-laden tourism campaign.
But the Michigan legislature’s recent move to ban almost all abortion coverage in all private insurance plans, inside and outside the marketplaces set up by the new health care law—and without exception for rape and incest—is pure BS.
This bill, which, because of a quirky Michigan law, is veto-proof by the Governor (who vetoed a similar measure last year), threatens to do real harm to Michigan women. In her courageous statement on the chamber floor, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer shared her own story of being raped while she was in college, and noted that if she had become pregnant as a result, she would not have had coverage under this measure.
This bill impacts my sister, my cousins, my childhood friends and neighbors. It impacts me, as a native Michigander who plans to return home some day. The 4 percent of Michigan’s population that brought this to the legislature, along with the 89 politicians who voted for it, are now dictating the personal, private health care decisions that belong to women and their doctors.
My knee-jerk reactions are disgust and embarrassment that a state I love would pass such a backwards and extreme anti-woman measure. Part of me wants to throw my hands up in frustration that my state, which is struggling to retain and recruit young people, would send such a hostile message to women. For a state whose motto is “if you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you”, things just got pretty unpleasant for Michigan women.
But my state is better than this. My family and friends deserve more than this. All women deserve access to quality, affordable health care, including abortion coverage. My little sister shouldn’t have to worry about not being covered if she were assaulted on her own college campus.
As the year comes to a close, Michigan women, along with women across the nation, are faced with a challenge: our rights are under siege. Twenty-three other states have passed similar provisions. We have an uphill battle in front of us to counter the attacks and safeguard our access to health care. But I know we can do it: the same spirit that powers us through years of recession, frigid winters, and football games against Ohio State makes Michigan women tough. This is far from over.
Michigan’s tourism ads may tout great lakes, historic lighthouses, and sandy beaches as the state’s strengths. But courage to fight back; the strength to move forward in the face of adversity: that’s the real, pure Michigan.