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Michigan health care system reverses its decision to curtail abortion care after Roe overturned

A pregnant person receives an ultrasound.
Medical Prudens

After telling Beaumont Health-Spectrum Health System staff Friday it would restrict abortions to cases where it's deemed "necessary to preserve the life of the woman," BHSH CEO Tina Freese Decker reversed course Saturday night.

In an email to employees, Decker wrote BHSH "will continue our practice of providing abortions when medically necessary."

She noted the health system performed about 60 "therapeutic, medically necessary abortions that required hospital level care" last year. She said the hospital has not and will not perform "elective abortions."

In a Friday email to employees obtained by Michigan Radio, Decker had cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturningRoe v. Wade earlier that day.

BHSH, formed earlier this year by the merger of Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health, operates more than 20 hospitals and employs more than 60,000 people in Michigan.

Decker’s Friday email explained the health system’s abortion policy would align with Michigan’s 1931 law that makes abortion a felony except when it’s performed to preserve a pregnant person's life.

That law was dormant under Roe v. Wade, and it’s still unenforceable because of an injunction issued last month by the state Court of Claims.

In a second email to staff later on Friday, Decker included more of the reasoning behind the decision to curtail abortions.

“There is legal ambiguity regarding enforcement due to an active challenge to the injunction, placing our physicians and clinical teams at risk of criminal liability,” she wrote. “This is not acceptable. We are actively seeking clarity regarding the law and enforcement.”

“Our goal is to ensure our patients are cared for, and you, our team members, are supported and safe as well,” Decker added.

Her email also alluded to the potential consequences of the policy change. Black women account for more than half of abortions obtained in the U.S., and they’re more than three times more likely to not survive a pregnancy than white women.

“There may be an impact on health equity, specifically maternal and infant mortality,” Decker said. “We will research and study the potential outcomes on health equity and implement programs to improve maternal and infant health and reduce mortality, consistent with the law.”

Other health systems in Michigan are already preparing to expand abortion care in the aftermath of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision overturning Roe.

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