Bill headed to governor's desk wouldn't exempt employers with moral, religious objections to abortion: 'A grave injustice'
LANSING — Catholic leaders in the state of Michigan expressed alarm over legislation that passed the Michigan House and Senate that would compel employers to cover abortion in employee health care benefits.
The Michigan Senate voted along strictly partisan lines May 4 to amend the 1976 Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include language that would require employers to cover elective abortion if they provide health coverage for pregnancy or childbirth services.
The vote comes after the House approved the legislation May 3. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign the bill.
Senate Bill 147 breaks from precedent and requires elective abortion benefits to be comparable to any employer-provided pregnancy and childbirth benefit, the Michigan Catholic Conference said.
“We are profoundly disappointed that legislation which equates elective abortion with childbirth has been approved by the Legislature and is soon headed to the governor,” said Rebecca Mastee, policy advocate for the Michigan Catholic Conference. “Not only does the premise of equating childbirth to abortion offend human dignity, but it is also wrong to push employers into providing employee benefits related to abortion if they offer paid maternity leave or insurance coverage for childbirth. Abortion is not the same as childbirth, nor does it represent ethical health care in any way.”
Mastee also raised concerns about the conscience of employers who choose to cover benefits for expecting and new mothers and now will be compelled to cover abortion-related procedures.
“It is a grave injustice that abortion — the intentional act to end a preborn child’s life — is being forced upon employers and fellow employees who might object as a matter of conscience,” Mastee said. “No one should have to support another’s abortion — financially or otherwise.”
Previously, “nontherapeutic abortion not intended to save the life of the mother,” was included in what employers could choose not to cover in health care plans.
The bill comes on the heels of Michigan voters approving the controversial Proposal 3 last November, enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution. Earlier this year, the Legislature repealed Michigan’s 1931 law banning abortion, which was largely dormant after the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision, including a repeal of a law that barred the advertising or sale of unsafe, unregulated abortion pills, powders or drugs.
“State legislative leadership is continuing to rapidly push excessive pro-abortion legislation to Gov. Whitmer’s desk,” said Genevieve Marnon, legislative director at Right to Life – Michigan. “Proponents of Proposal 3 promised its passage would simply codify Roe v. Wade in Michigan, but this bill is a significant departure from the Michigan that operated under Roe v. Wade.
“Employers will be forced to either violate their conscience or not provide employers with health benefits,” Marnon added. “Conscience rights were always protected in Michigan, even under the rule of Roe v. Wade. Not only does this unprecedented bill strip conscience protections, but it also could force citizens to pay for others’ abortion by circumventing the abortion insurance opt-out law.”
The campaign surrounding Proposal 3 was framed as “only about restoring Roe v. Wade,” when these new laws exceed what had been permitted under Roe in Michigan, Mastee said.
“This radical expansion of abortion in Michigan is harmful for women and must end,” Mastee said. “We pray and work for a day when all elected officials will support policies that protect all human life and provide life-affirming options for both preborn children and their mothers. Women deserve better than abortion.”