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States restrict plans from abortion coverage

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One of the battles in the war over abortion rights extends to an area that might surprise residents of most states: whether private and public health insurance plans cover such care, even in cases of rape or incest.

Michigan this week became the ninth state to ban such coverage, although the law, inspired by a conservative voter initiative, does allow those who want it to purchase the coverage. 

Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a similar bill last year, but he does not have the power to block a voter initiative law. The law was passed by the legislature after 300,000 signatures were gathered during a petition drive.

Laws limiting abortion coverage have been around since 1983 with various differences. The states with some form of limits are Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Utah.

All of the states allow insurance to pay for an abortion if the woman’s life is at risk. Only Utah does not allow the purchase of separate coverage.

Since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, at least 23 states, including those listed above, have passed laws to limit abortion coverage by their health insurance exchanges. The PPACA includes a provision that any such coverage must carry a separate premium.

The Michigan law will affect about a third of policyholders. The law does not cover employers who self-insure. That would exclude 2 million workers.

Michigan Democrats plan to use the abortion law vote to sway voters in 2014. A petition to put the law on the ballot next year is also being considered.