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House rejects putting abortion rights in budget bills

Maxim Jenkins

Abortions rights and the future of the Roe versus Wade decision played a big part in a marathon budget debate Thursday in the Michigan House.

Democrats tried to force votes on amendments to preserve abortion access regardless of the outcome of an upcoming US Supreme Court ruling that could reinstate Michigan’s dormant law that criminalizes abortion. It’s one of the strictest in the country with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Democrats’ efforts to repeal the ban have failed. So Democratic legislators, including Representative Laurie Pohutsky, called for financial assistance to help women travel to states where abortion would remain legal, and help pay the legal costs of patients and clinics that face prosecution.

“Accessing and providing health care is not a crime,” she said.

“The sudden scuttling of a right that people have had for nearly 50 years and replacing it with a nearly century-year-old law that criminalizes a safe and common medical procedure will undoubtedly leave many patients in a perilous position while forcing providers to first do no harm or to avoid prosecution. If this body is going to insist on putting people in that position, then we owe it to them to provide a legal defense,” she said.

Republican budget language, on the other hand, would deny Medicaid funds to medical facilities that offer abortion services.

Representative Thomas Albert says, the House Appropriations Committee chair, said the Republican budget promotes alternatives that don’t include abortion. “What I’m pushing for actually is choice,” he said. “I want to have options for women that are facing crisis pregnancies. I mean, many women don’t realize they have the option to put their child up for adoption if they’re not able to care for the child.”

Democrats said that’s not a realistic option for people who are pregnant as a result of rape or who face serious health threats from a pregnancy. They said access to abortion is a crucial part of health care. Adopting these bills is an early stage of the budget process and negotiations will continue as they head to the Senate.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer, an ardent abortion rights supporter, could also use her line-item veto power on abortion restrictions in budget bills that reach her desk.

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