Commissioners Eliminate “Elective” Abortion Coverage From County Health Plans

Livingston County’s leaders have approved a measure that will exclude “elective” abortion coverage for non-union employees from the county’s insurance policy.

The resolution by county Commissioner Wes Nakagiri eliminates coverage for non-union employees and removes all abortifacient drugs from its list of covered prescription drugs. The proposal previously passed by the county’s Personnel and Finance Committees, and was taken up by the Board of Commissioners Monday night. The board’s meeting was met with a large turnout of community members, some of whom protested outside of the building prior to, and many who came to speak for or against the proposal. Numerous residents spoke at the meeting’s call to the public, with representation for both sides of the argument.

Several of those that spoke against the proposal asked why it was coming before the commissioners before a fiscal analysis had been performed, or without fully discussing it with county employees. Kate Derosier of Hartland asked that the issue be tabled so commissioners could further discuss it amongst themselves and with the employees that would be affected. She also questioned some of the commissioners’ motives stating, “It doesn’t seem to be a financial reason for doing this. If it were, then you’d be exploring some other things like vasectomies and erectile dysfunction. The fact that you’re not makes this resolution I would think a court could find it prejudicial because it really only directly affects women.”

The issue of pro-life vs. pro-choice was brought up frequently during the call to the public. While some that are pro-choice argued that a woman should have the right to healthcare and to an abortion covered by their health insurance, many that supported the resolution asked about the choice of the fetus or unborn child, including Meghan Reckling, Chief of Staff for State Senator Lana Theis and Chair of the Livingston County Republican Party. Thanking commissioners Reckling said, “…one of our top priorities as a county should be public safety and under public safety we are responsible to protect those who are unable to protect themselves.”

Several individuals who voiced support for the resolution stated in part it was because they did not want to pay for someone’s abortion if they themselves feel it’s an infringement on their conscience and beliefs. But Commissioner Gary Childs, who voted against it, told attendees that people will continue to get abortions in Livingston County regardless and that while taxpayers may not be funding them in this case, they will continue to in others. Commissioner Dennis Dolan was the only other dissenting vote. He noted that while he is personally “pro-life”, he also does not believe in forcing his opinion on others.

The issue of commissioners’ representing their constituents was also frequently brought up by residents at the meeting, which prompted Chairman Don Parker to explain where he stood on that issue and how it relates to how he voted. Parker told attendees, “When the people elect all of us, they elect our life experiences, our opinions, our conscience…and that’s what we bring to this table. And so to say, ‘don’t impose your private beliefs on us’…this is part of that.”

It was noted that under the measure, the county’s insurance plan would still cover abortions that are determined to be “medically necessary”; however Commissioner Childs pointed out that an abortion of a pregnancy that resulted from a situation of incest of rape would not be covered. Several other commissioners disputed that, but then Childs asked the county’s attorney if they were covered and was told that, in fact, they were not. Despite that, the proposal ultimately passed seven to two. It is expected to take effect at the start of the new year. (DK/JK)

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