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Michigan Senate passes part of ‘Reproductive Health Act’

File photo
Jodi Westrick
Michigan Radio
File photo

The Michigan Senate passed part of a package aimed at reducing barriers to abortion care Thursday.

It would repeal several laws and state rules dealing with the procedure. For example, it would repeal a rule that abortion facilities need to meet the same requirements as freestanding surgical facilities.

The package would also get rid of some requirements for providers to report information about abortions performed to the state and end a ban on colleges and university family planning resources from providing referrals to abortion services.

Senator Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) said current laws have unfairly singled out the abortion care industry.

“Politicians in state capitols and court rooms have spent many months and many years deciding what to do with my body. And the bodies of women in every corner of this state and every corner of this country,” Anthony said. “This has led to current law that are on the books that have made reproductive health care, including the right to access a safe abortion both restrictive and traumatic.”

Opponents to the legislation say repealing abortion regulations would make the procedure less safe.

Senator Joe Bellino (R-Monroe) says the targeted regulations don’t limit abortion access.

“They merely act as a guardrail to help protect women who help choose this path,” Bellino said.

In no vote explanations, Republican lawmakers suggested the bill package would leave the abortion industry unregulated.

But Anthony mentioned the regulations that oversee other healthcare in the state would remain.

Aside from undoing reporting requirements and regulations, the legislation would repeal requirements meant to prevent coercion. For example, one that requires providers to receive written, informed consent of their patients.

During a floor speech, Senator John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs) said that should remain.

“We all here horrific stories about human traffic, we’ve heard stories about abusive, controlling relationships, and we should be aware that any of these situations and so many more could easily lead to a man forcing a pregnant woman to abort a child against her will,” Damoose said.

The four bills voted on Thursday make up just part of an overall package legislative Democrats are pushing known as the Reproductive Health Act.

A fifth bill in the Senate package would allow people to sue for the infringement of their state constitutional right to an abortion. It would also repeal a provision that requires elective abortion coverage to be purchased through a separate rider in insurance plans.

Eleven other bills in the House of Representatives stalled weeks back when provisions that would allow for Medicaid reimbursement for abortions and remove the state’s 24-hour abortion waiting period ran into resistance from Democratic representatives.

The Senate bills passed leave those topics alone.

Anthony describes the Senate’s action Thursday as a “comma, not a period.”  

“These bills have real impacts. And every day that we are continuing to try to negotiate and over negotiate and over educate on issues that have already been debated, there are women across our state and other states that cannot access this health care,” Anthony told reporters.  

The Reproductive Health Act is among the policies Governor Gretchen Whitmer called for in August during her “What’s Next?” address.  

Supporters are billing it as a follow up to last year’s abortion rights constitutional amendment.  

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