by Steven Ertelt
July 7, 2005
Lansing, MI (LifeNews.com) — Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm wants to make her state the latest to debate whether or not to force private insurance companies to provide coverage for contraception. The debate has state Catholic groups concerned and it could spill over into the abortion debate.
Granholm’s proposal gives pro-life groups pause because it could be used to cover the so-called morning after pill, or Plan B, which can sometimes cause abortions. It could also be used to eventually cover the dangerous abortion drug RU 486.
Granholm called the proposal "an aggressive effort to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies in Michigan." There were 29,540 abortions in Michigan in 2003, the latest year for which data is available.
However, Catholic groups in the state are concerned about the ramifications of being forced to cover morally objectionable items under employee health insurance plans.
Kristen Cella, associate for public policy at the pro-life Michigan Catholic Conference, told the Detroit News, "It’s unfortunate to hear that she supports contraception equity mandates. Our understanding was that the governor had a greater respect for religious freedom than this statement indicates."
Cella told the newspaper that Granholm’s plan puts Catholic business owners "in a position of choosing to withhold a benefit from employees or to participate in something that goes against our religious viewpoints."
Requiring insurance coverage for contraception has been in issue in other states, such as California, where pro-life groups worried a similar California law would set the stage for possibly forcing Catholic and other Christian groups to pay for other immoral activities such as abortion or assisted suicides, if legalized.
The U.S. Supreme Court turned back an appeal of a California Supreme Court decision saying the insurance mandate was constitutional.
Some 20 states require employers that have prescription drug benefit plans to also cover birth control pills and other forms of contraception. Such laws typically exempt churches but not church-affiliated organizations or hospitals.
Cella also said he was surprised that Granholm went back on a 2002 campaign promise to not support insurance mandates.
But, Granholm press secretary Liz Boyd told the News that the governor doesn’t view the proposal as an insurance mandate because it only applies to insurance plans that cover prescriptions.
Part of the governor’s plan is meeting with more positive reception from pro-life organizations. She hopes to launch a new program for voluntary tutoring for parents under the "Talk Early Talk Often" program, which will include abstinence education.
Ed Rivet, legislative director for Right to Life of Michigan, said his group could support that component of the proposal.
"The governor’s plan to get parents more involved to try and promote abstinence is consistent with policies that we have supported," Rivet told the Detroit News.
Granholm’s plan also calls on increasing the amount of state tax dollars allocated for family planning services for poor state residents.
Ari Adler, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema of Wyoming, said Republican, who control the state legislature, would not likely support Granholm’s proposal because of concerns from pro-life groups and the business and insurance communities.