(The following is an op-ed written by Michigan Patch Editor Beth Dalbey)
A couple of stories posted within hours of one another last week were related only to the extent that they combined disturbingly in the messages they sent about how far we’ve really come as women.
One story dealt with DNA tests conducted on 11,000 unprocessed rape cases found abandoned in a Detroit warehouse in 2009, some of them dating back to the 1970s. About 1,600 have been processed so far, leading to the capture of more than 100 offenders considered “serial rapists” who have committed similar crimes in 23 states.
This isn’t just happening in Michigan, where – thankfully – proposed legislation would set deadlines and guidelines for the timely testing of sexual assault kits. Nationwide, there about 400,000 unprocessed rape kits.
What was the thinking of police who let the unprocessed sexual assault kits accumulate?
We may never know that for sure, but even under the most generous of possible explanations, it doesn’t speak well for how serious some in law enforcement believe rape, for the most part a crime against women, to be.
Neither does Michigan’s so-called “Rape Insurance Law” that took effect last week, which Patch also wrote about. (It was passed by the same Republican-controlled legislature that will now consider laws requiring timely processing of rape kits.)
It basically requires women to “anticipate” needing abortion services by purchasing insurance riders on their health insurance, and it applies even in usually sacrosanct exceptions of rape or incest?
That a woman would have to anticipate that she might be raped and become pregnant on the way across campus, for example, prompted a Michigan state senator to disclose, after 20 years, that she had been raped as a college student.
Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, didn’t become pregnant as a result of the attack, but she said she “can’t even begin to imagine now having to think about the same thing happening to my own daughters" in the current political climate surrounding abortion in Michigan.
You'd think someone got it in their illogical head this would cause a drop in abortions, right?
Right to Life Michigan says the point of the law, which it pushed, isn’t to reduce abortions – which have been steadily declining in the state in past decades. It’s about shifting costs, even though fewer than 3 percent of the abortions in Michigan in 2012 were paid for with insurance.
That the impetus for the law wasn't reducing elective abortions to "save innocent life" – or even making any meaningful difference in how the procedures are paid for – makes the unintended consequences impossible to see as anything short of a war on women for the sake of the war.
One of the cruelest of the battles Michigan women are now being asked to fight is for access to medically necessary procedures like D&Cs, which might not be covered under the new law – meaning tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs for a procedure a woman's doctor said she needed.
Whitmer nailed it.
“If that’s not a direct attack on women and our health to say insurance can’t cover this type of critically important reproductive care,” she said, “I don’t know what is.”
It’s easy – but foolish – to look at the issues in both of these stories as simply Michigan problems. Back-door approaches are being taken all across America by politicians who presume they are better arbiters of women’s health-care decisions than are the women and the doctors they trust.
Regardless of where you’re sitting, how confident are you that women’s reproductive rights are safe, at least in cases rape or incest? Or that rape kits that could prove the crimes against them wouldn't languish forgotten in a pile with thousands of others?