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Senate sends Reproductive Health Act bills to governor

Michigan State Capitol - Senate Chamber
David Marvin
Michigan State Capitol - Senate Chamber

Michigan bills known as the Reproductive Health Act could soon be on their way to the governor.

The legislation aims to remove remaining barriers to abortion access in Michigan after voters approved a constitutional amendment a year ago, guaranteeing a right to the procedure.

On Tuesday, the Michigan Senate approved each of the bills in the nine-bill package that had started in the state House of Representatives. The Senate also agreed to changes the House made to the legislation’s Senate-originated bills. That means the policies could see the governor’s desk as soon as each chamber completes a procedural
step known as printing and presentation to the governor.

“The Reproductive Health Act is going to remove a lot of arbitrary hurdles that are standing in the way of women accessing abortion care. So this finally aligns the state policies with what voters resoundingly
voted for last year with Prop 3,” Senator Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) said after the bills passed the state Senate Tuesday.

The package would allow someone to sue if their Prop 3-guaranteed right to an abortion was infringed upon.

It would also repeal requirements that doctors make patients review certain materials, like a depiction of a fetus, before receiving an abortion.

Other state policies requiring elective abortion care to be purchased through an optional rider in an insurance plan, or outlawing late term abortions would also be done away with.

Senator Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) says that’s a mistake.

“There is a federal law prohibiting the partial birth abortion. But eliminating the state law and leaving only federal law in place creates issues. First off, the federal government could change their law and remove any ban of partial birth abortion whatsoever,” Albert said during a floor speech Tuesday.

Albert tried to amend the bill to repeal the law banning late term abortions but his effort was easily defeated.

Reproductive Health Act supporters say the term “partial birth abortion” is misleading and was created by abortion rights opponents as a scare tactic.

“The law you’re trying to protect is not just poorly written and ambiguous, it is designed to cause confusion and shock and is worthy of being repealed,” Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) said from the Senate floor.

Other parts of the package received votes in the state House of Representatives last week. Among other things, those would repeal certain building requirements for some abortion providers.

Critics of the Reproductive Health Act have derided it as getting rid of provisions in state law meant to protect pregnant individuals.

“The RHA strips abortion clinic licensing and inspection requirements, including regulations that ensure clinic hallways are wide enough for EMS workers and a stretcher in the case of an emergency; eliminates the requirement for sanitary humane disposal of fetal remains; removes transparency for the abortion
industry by eliminating abortion reporting including abortion complication reporting,” a press release dated Nov. 2 from the abortion rights opposition group, Right to Life Michigan read.

Despite the controversy, the bills are moving forward without two key provisions that were in earlier versions of the package.

One would have eliminated the state’s 24-hour abortion waiting period. The other would have gotten rid of Michigan’s ban on Medicaid reimbursement for the procedure. Both had received some pushback from some Democratic members of the House.

McMorrow said those issues could still come up either in courts or in future policymaking.

“It shouldn’t matter what your income or tax bracket is to be able to get the health care that you need to decide if and when to get pregnant, and to know that if you do decide to get pregnant that, if something goes wrong, you’re going to have the health care you deserve,” McMorrow said.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer had signaled earlier in the fall that she expected to see the full package on her desk.

But with time running low on the state Legislature before an anticipated early adjournment, it’s likely the governor will sign whatever does reach her office.

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