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Gov. Whitmer to seek repeal of 'antiquated' abortion restrictions in Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has used Michigan’s abortion access as a selling point, with her administration buying ads in southern states touting the state’s reproductive freedoms. (Bridge file photo by Dale Young)
  • Whitmer on Wednesday to push for repeal ‘medically unnecessary’ abortion regulations
  • Planned Parenthood working with Democratic legislators on bills
  • Push follows approval last year of Proposal 3, which wrote abortion rights into state Constitution

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will use a Wednesday speech to call on the Michigan Legislature to repeal "politically motivated" and "medically unnecessary" laws that limit access to abortion, her office said Monday. 

The second-term Democrat wants to "repeal waiting periods and other ... hurdles that make it harder for women to get abortions and for doctors to treat their patients," according to a planning memo shared with Bridge Michigan. 

“With a U.S. Supreme Court that’s shown it can and will strip away basic rights, Michigan must be proactive and repeal antiquated state laws,” the memo said.


Whitmer is expected to outline plans for a new Reproductive Health Act on Wednesday as part of a "What's Next Address" that will highlight her top priorities for the fall as she continues work with the Democratic-led Legislature. 

The governor is also expected to propose a 100 percent renewable energy mandate and a broad paid sick leave law for Michigan workers, according to other planning memos reviewed by Bridge. 

While Whitmer’s office did not specify which abortion regulations she wants to repeal, abortion rights groups offered suggestions earlier Monday as lawmakers prepare to return from summer break next week. 


Activists’ wish list includes striking a 24-hour waiting period law, removing limitations on insurance coverage and ending what they call "medically irrelevant regulations" and building code requirements for abortion providers.

The coalition also wants lawmakers to repeal a longstanding parental consent law for minors, but advocates acknowledged that could be a heavy lift in the Legislature, where Democrats have narrow two-seat advantages in the House and Senate.

"This can be a more complex topic for people to understand, and it may be that there's more education necessary about the need to repeal parental notification requirements," Loren Khogali, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan, told reporters during a Monday call announcing the advocacy campaign. 

"We trust that when the legislators come back to Lansing that they will prioritize passing a Reproductive Health Act that secures the most access to abortion for the most people in Michigan," she said. 

The push comes less than a year after voters approved Proposal 3 of 2022, which wrote abortion rights into the Michigan Constitution, keeping the procedure legal in the state after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a national guarantee by reversing Roe v. Wade.

Now, it's "time to finish the job and ensure that (Michiganders) also have meaningful access," said Paula Thornton Greear, interim executive director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan.

Democrats introduced similar repeal legislation in 2019 and 2021, but Republicans controlled both chambers of the Legislature at the time and had no interest in removing abortion regulations they had helped pass when an outright ban was not possible because of Roe v. Wade. 

Genevieve Marnon, legislative liaison for Right to Life of Michigan, said she was not surprised to see the renewed push to repeal the existing regulations but slammed the effort as a potentially unpopular move toward "abortions on demand."

"The majority of people who voted for Prop 3 believe that we should have licensed and inspected clinics that are safe and that meet a minimum standard," Marnon told Bridge Michigan.  

"I think most people believe that we should have informed consent before an abortion, and I know most people want parental consent for abortion."

Early indications are that more women are getting abortions in Michigan because of Proposal 3, as neighboring states like Indiana and Ohio pass laws restricting access.

Last year, even before the vote, the number of abortions on out-state-residents increased 66 percent to 2,761, while overall abortions remained static at about 30,000.

Whitmer has used abortion access — as well as recent laws offering protections to LGBTQ+ residents — as a selling point for Michigan. Her administration recently bought ads in six southern states touting Michigan’s “right to reproductive freedom.”

‘Dozens of laws’

Even so, abortion supporters contend that Michigan has "dozens of laws" on the books that conflict with the spirit of Proposal 3, which was approved by state residents in a 57-43 percent vote. 

That includes a 1994 informed consent law requiring women to wait 24 hours after seeking an abortion from a medical provider, who must first give the pregnant woman "accurate information" about abortion and "alternatives." 

That law is "not only an unnecessary delay of time sensitive medical care, but it's also paired with arbitrary and exacting rules around a printed consent form that are extremely difficult to meet," said Greear of Planned Parenthood. 

"And if a patient makes even the smallest of missteps, a provider can't legally provide care and they have to reschedule for another day, and start all over again."

But the process is relatively straightforward and the form can be completed on a smartphone "from the comfort of your own home," countered Marnon, who argued the 24-hour wait period law "empowers women to make informed decisions" before an abortion. 

Abortion rights groups also want to repeal what they call "trap laws" — an acronym that stands for “targeted regulations of abortion providers" — that dictate everything from hallways width, to ceiling heights and restroom sizes, Greear said. 

"These medically irrelevant regulations were explicitly designed to create logistical hurdles that limit abortion providers’ ability to provide care and significantly increase costs," Greear said, “which in turn makes it difficult for providers like Planned Parenthood of Michigan to operate, let alone build new health centers and expand into areas where they're needed the most."

The groups also want legislation guaranteeing that both public and private health insurers pay for abortions in Michigan, including Medicaid. 

“Once someone decides to have an abortion, it should be safe, legal and informed by medically accurate information and affordable …regardless of their health insurance,” Greear said. 

Policy priorities coming

Abortion rights advocates say they are working with leaders in the Democratic-led Legislature on a package of bills set for introduction later this year, including House Speaker Pro Tem Laurie Pohustky and Senate Appropriations Chair Sarah Anthony.

They are also hoping for support from Whitmer, who plans to unveil her own fall agenda on Wednesday in a "What's Next Address" in Lansing.

In a statement, Anthony said Michigan lawmakers are scrutinizing existing abortion laws that are "based on junk science" for possible repeal. 

Whitmer has long championed abortion rights, saying she will "fight like hell" to protect access. In April, she signed legislation to officially repeal a dormant 1931 ban that abortion opponents hoped to re-enact after the fall of Roe v. Wade. 

"My understanding is she's a big advocate of this work," Khogali, the ACLU director, said of Whitmer. 

"We are committed to removing unconstitutional, medically unnecessary laws that exist only to create barriers to people accessing abortion,” Khogali added.

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