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Michigan Senate passes part of ‘Reproductive Health Act’

In this Friday, June 24, 2022, file photo, abortion rights protesters cheer at a rally following the United States Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, federally protected right to abortion, outside the state capitol in Lansing, Mich. The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, that county prosecutors can enforce the state's 91-year-old abortion ban, paving the way for abortion to become illegal in parts of the state. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
Paul Sancya / AP
Abortion rights protesters at a rally following the United States Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, federally protected right to abortion, outside the Michigan state capitol June 24, 2022

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

The legislation would repeal several laws and state rules dealing with the procedure. The bills 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 abortion provider reporting requirements and end a referal ban for college and university family-planning services.

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

“Politicians in state capitols and courtrooms 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 said repealing abortion regulations would make the procedure less safe, claiming current laws do not limit access to the medical procedure.

“They merely act as a guardrail to help protect women who help choose this path,” state Sen. Joe Bellino (R-Monroe) said.

Republican lawmakers suggest the bill package would leave the abortion industry unregulated. But Democrats refer to other healthcare regulations in the state that would remain intact.

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

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

“We all hear horrific stories about human traffic, we’ve heard stories about abusive, controlling relationships," Damoose said. "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."

The four bills voted on Thursday make up just part of an overall legislative package Democrats are calling 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 Michigan House of Representatives stalled weeks ago 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 recently passed Senate bills 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," Anthony told reporters.

"There are women across our state and other states that cannot access this health care."

The Reproductive Health Act is among the policies Gov. 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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