By Ruth Conniff
A female state senator in Michigan shamed her Republican colleagues this week over a new law that requires women to purchase what she called "rape insurance" by graphically retelling her own experience with sexual assault.
Proponents of the Michigan law insist that it is designed to provide women with special insurance that pays for abortions. Critics, like State Senator Gretchen Whitmer, have taken to calling it "rape insurance" due to the effect it would have on women who become pregnant as a result of a sexual assault.
"The fact that rape insurance is even being discussed by this body is repulsive," she told fellow lawmakers on Wednesday. "And for those of you who want to act aghast that I use a term like rape insurance to describe the proposal here before us, you should be even more offended that it's an absolutely accurate description of what this proposal requires. This tells women that were raped and become pregnant that they should have thought ahead and bought special insurance for it."
The senator then described in excruciating detail how she was sexually assaulted over 20 years ago, and how she's not spoken about it much since then. "If this were law then and I had become pregnant, I would not be able to have coverage because of this," she said. "How extreme does this measure need to be?"
Whitmer then left the chamber and immediately called her father so he could hear it first from her instead of on the news.
"It was very difficult but I'm glad I did that," she told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Thursday. "The response from women across the state, and across the country frankly, has been amazing."
Despite her passionate argument against the proposal, Republicans passed it Thursday on a party-line vote. Identical measures had previously failed twice before thanks to vetoes, but it was reintroduced again this year through a rarely-used "citizen's initiative" legislative process that bypasses the governor's desk.
Michigan's new requirement that abortion be covered through separate specialty insurance is set to take effect in March. Whitmer said she and fellow Democrats would do everything they can to ensure that it gets repealed.
This video is from "The Rachel Maddow Show," aired Thursday, Dec. 13, 2013.