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Reproductive rights bills adopted by House but key measures stall

 michigan state capitol
Megan Schellong

The state House adopted legislation Wednesday night to repeal some abortion restrictions that remain on the books in Michigan, although Democratic leaders working with a slim majority had to settle for less than they hoped for.

Representative Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) said the bills are more steps to strip away laws that do not align with the reproductive rights amendment to the state constitution adopted last year by voters.

“This bill package seeks to repeal onerous, politically motivated and medically unnecessary laws that were put into place over the last 10 to 15 years with the express purpose of limiting access to abortion,” she said in a floor speech. She said the goal of the package is “to correct a long-standing wrong and remove politicians from rooms where only patients and medical professionals belong.”

But Representative Gina Johnsen (R-Lake Odessa) said the bills are not necessary to comply with the reproductive rights amendment, which appeared on the ballot as Proposal 3.

“Proposal 3 has passed with 57 % of the vote. The 1931 law banning abortion procedures has been removed by the Legislature,” she said. “But why do we need yet another fast track to have more abortions?”

The bills were adopted on 56-to-54 party-line votes. But Democratic leaders could not muster the necessary votes to lift a ban on using Medicaid funds for abortion care or repealing 24-hour waiting periods. Those bills remain pending on the House calendar while the other bills advance to the Senate.

Abortion rights groups were glad for some progress toward their policy goals, but expressed disappointment they could not gain more ground.

“Every single day, I see patients who have struggled to pull together needed funds because Medicaid won’t cover their care,” said Dr. Sarah Wallett, chief medical operating officer of Planned Parenthood of Michigan. “Every single day we have to cancel and reschedule appointments because of insignificant clerical errors in state-mandated paperwork. This is not reproductive freedom.”

The bills now go the Michigan Senate, where Democrats also hold a slim majority.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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