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University of Michigan sets up task force on abortion-care access

Woman getting ultrasound
Alexander Raths
Adobe Stock

The University of Michigan announced Wednesday that a university-wide task force is working "to mitigate the impact of a potential statewide abortion ban in Michigan."

"The specter of a complete ban on abortion care in Michigan is worrisome. I strongly support access to abortion care," said U of M President Mary Sue Coleman in the university announcement.

"We have a female-dominated institution; we care about our own communities as well as those we serve through clinical care and education. I am deeply concerned about how prohibiting abortion would affect U-M's medical teaching, our research, and our service to communities in need," she said.

If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, a 1931 Michigan law could take effect. That law makes abortion a felony unless it is needed to save the mother's life.

Currently, a temporary injunction would block enforcement of the law. Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Planned Parenthood of Michigan have separately filed lawsuits challenging the 1931 law.

The U of M task force is working to identify and prepare for the consequences an abortion ban could have on a broad range of the university's missions.

"Probably the most obvious and urgent one is clinical care," said Dr. Lisa Harris, co-chair of the task force and professor of obstetrics and gynecology.

Harris said Michigan Medicine sees patients from all over Michigan and nearby states with complex conditions that require hospital-level abortion care.

"Because of the way that financial inequity intersects with racial inequities, it will be disproportionately people of color, patients of color, students of color who are impacted when abortion's not available," Harris said

"The impact of criminalizing abortion will be felt in classrooms as well, where pregnancy, undesired birth or complications from unsafe abortion may impact educational attainment," said Dr. Dee Fenner, co-chair of the task force and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Michigan Medicine.

Harris and Fenner said the task force is also considering how to address the effects an abortion ban could have on medical training and the recruitment and retention of faculty, students and staff throughout the university.

"Right now, we have a lot more questions than answers," said Fenner in the university announcement. "We recognize that abortion is a complex issue that may bring up complex feelings. Regardless of one's personal feelings about abortion, as professionals providing reproductive health care, this is a time of great uncertainty for us and for our patients. But we are pulling together a large, diverse group of university leaders to make sure we are prepared for whatever may happen."

Editor's note: The University of Michigan holds Michigan Radio's license.

Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.
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