Dec. 12--Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly implied that state House candidate Wendy Day tweeted a critical remark in response to Whitmer's speech. That tweet came hours before the debate. This version is correct.
LANSING -- State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer was raped 20 years ago.
State Rep. Colleen Lamonte had a difficult and painful miscarriage at 12 weeks of pregnancy.
State Rep. Vickie Barnett was forced to get advanced fetal testing to make sure her unborn children didn't suffer from the Tay Sachs genetic disorder.
The highly personal stories, delivered with tears, rage and anger, accompanied the emotional debate Wednesday on a bill that will require women to buy additional insurance rider if they want abortion coverage in their health insurance plans.
The three Democratic women resorted to revealing their most painful memories as a means to try and convince their Republican colleagues to reject the abortion insurance initiative and allow voters across the state to decide the issue, rather than just the 4% of the state's voters who signed a petition to get the law enacted.
Their pleas fell on deaf ears. The measure passed the Senate on a 27-11 vote and in the House, it was 62-47.
Senate Minority Leader Whitmer, D-East Lansing, in an emotional speech, disclosed that she was raped 20 years ago.
"As I was considering what to say in opposition to the rape insurance proposal in front of the Senate today, I made the decision to speak about my own story publicly for the first time ever," Whitmer said. "It was the story of the time I was raped while in college. It's something I've coped with privately for many years now, but I felt it was important for my Republican colleagues to see the face of the women they're hurting with their actions today.
"Thank god I didn't get pregnant as the result of my own attack, but I can't even begin to imagine now having to think about the same thing happening to my own daughters."
Likewise, state Rep. Lamonte, D-Muskegon, fought back tears as she recalled the miscarriage she endured. She wondered what the hospital bill would have been if she didn't have insurance for the dilation and curettage she needed to end the pregnancy.
"I would have been denied this procedure. Or we would have had an expensive medical bill that would have bankrupted us," she said. "This is an issue that should be openly debated. Please don't silence the voices of the people in our state."
The women were trying to make the point that abortion isn't just about dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. It's also about ending desperately wanted pregnancies because of diseases and genetic disorders found in developing fetuses.
"This isn't about me trying to detract from the quality of the debate," Whitmer said. "There's been no debate on the Republican side. They haven't put a face on the women who are going to pay because of their actions today."
"It was important to put a face on it," Whitmer added, noting she called her father after she spoke because she had never told him about the assault. "I wanted him to hear it from me instead of on the news. Republicans have given me a lot of grief about calling it rape insurance, but that's exactly what it is."
"The Republican male majority continues to ignorantly and unnecessarily weigh in on important women's health issues which they know nothing about," Whitmer told the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, said he appreciated the passion of the debate.
"The best legislators I've dealt with put passion into their job," he said. "That doesn't mean we're going to agree on things, but it's appropriate to be passionate."
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Original headline: In emotional Lansing abortion debate, tears, rage, personal stories of rape, miscarriage
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