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Michigan House sends abortion ban repeal legislation to Senate

Abortion-rights activist argues with anti-abortion-rights protesters outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Eman Mohammed
Abortion-rights activist argues with anti-abortion-rights protesters outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The Michigan House voted to repeal the state’s 1931 abortion ban Thursday, sending the legislation on to the state Senate.

The ban is unenforceable because of a constitutional amendment approved in November that guarantees the right to abortion access.

But state RepresentativeLaurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) said repealing it is still important. She sponsored the legislation.

Pohutsky said lawmakers should have taken the ban off the books years ago before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending decades of federal protections for abortion rights. Before the amendment’s passage, a series of lawsuits to prevent the ban from taking effect left the legality of abortion in Michigan in confusion.

“Everyone serving in this chamber was sent here with a clear task after last November, and I am grateful that we are finally, finally addressing it and repealing this archaic and punitive law once and for all,” Pohutsky said during a floor speech. As she spoke, she physically ripped a page containing the ban out of a book of Michigan laws.

During debate on the House floor, several opponents to the repeal argued the law still had its merits outside of banning abortion altogether.

Representative Rachelle Smit (R-Shelbyville) said a provision that allows prosecution of doctors if a patient dies during a procedure would also be repealed under the House bill.

“It is unconscionable to remove the criminal penalties for literally killing women in abortions. How does this protect women’s health?” Smit asked.

Democrats accused opponents of fearmongering. They said other laws and policies in the public health code already provide safeguards to ensure women’s safety without infringing on abortion access.

Two Republicans did cross over to support the repeal when it came up for a House vote. It ultimately passed by a margin of 58-50.

Pohutsky said House Democrats can now focus on other abortion-access legislation.

“There’s been legislation we’ve introduced before around mandatory waiting periods, things that make it difficult for people who may not have steady access to transportation or may not have the ability to take time off of work. Those things were put in place to prevent people from accessing care,” she told reporters.

The Senate could take up its own version of the abortion ban repeal as soon as next week.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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