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Democratic lawmakers, abortion advocates outline bills to protect abortion access

Protestors for and against legal abortions gathered at The University of Michigan on May 14, 2022.
Jodi Westrick
Michigan Radio
Protestors for and against legal abortions gathered at The University of Michigan on May 14, 2022.

Michigan abortion-rights advocates are sharing details about upcoming “Reproductive Health Act” legislation.

The expected 11-bill package would build upon an abortion rights constitutional amendment approved during last year’s election.

The proposal would allow Medicaid to pay for all pregnancy care, including abortions, and repeal Michigan’s 24-hour waiting period before an abortion.

Paula Thornton Greear is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Michigan. She said delaying access to a procedure only hurts patients.

“Think about what that does for an individual who wakes up, who’s coming from across Michigan, who’s coming from the U.P., maybe coming from a state where abortion is banned. They get here. And they can’t have their healthcare needs met,” Greear urged during a roundtable discussion with media Wednesday.

The legislation also targets certain existing requirements for abortion facilities.

State law requires abortion facilities to meet the same standards as free-standing surgical centers.

Abortion-rights supporters say that’s unnecessary since abortions often don’t involve sedating patients or surgery in the traditional sense of cutting into the body, and can be done through medication.

They say it also makes it cost-prohibitive to expand abortion access outside of urban centers.

Dr. Sarah Wallett is chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of Michigan.

“Current regulations would basically mean building a mini hospital in order to meet all the requirements, which are not required for the safety of the care that we provide but are financially inaccessible,” Wallett said during a roundtable discussion Wednesday.

But anti-abortion activists, like the group Right to Life of Michigan, say repealing those regulations would put patients in danger.

“Those are the same standards that are set forth for any other surgical facility in the state. Any woman walking into an abortion facility should expect to have common sense health and safety regulations on these clinics,” Right to Life of Michigan Legislative Director Genevieve Marnon said.

Marnon likened the bills to Planned Parenthood seeking special treatment.

“No industry is left to regulate itself. Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry wants to remove these commonsense regulations, and it serves their interest, not the interests of women seeking abortions,” Marnon said.

The package would not address other hotly debated topics involving abortion, like the issue of parental notification.

Representative Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) said that’s part of a broader conversation.

“The goal is to do as much of this work as we possibly can and we didn’t want to do anything that would have prohibited the rest of the package from getting through at this point in time,” Pohutsky said.

In late August, Governor Gretchen Whitmer called on lawmakers to pass the Reproductive Health Act during a speech outlining her top priorities for the rest of the year.

The bills are planned for a split introduction between the House and Senate Wednesday and Thursday.

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