Michigan Democrats get to work on abortion restriction repeals
- Michigan Democrats: 24-hour waiting period, restrictions on abortion clinics must go
- Parental consent requirement to remain, despite long-standing calls to repeal it
- Anti-abortion activists argue the proposed repeal benefits abortion clinics, undermines patient safety
LANSING — Michigan Democrats introduced legislation Wednesday to wipe away many remaining abortion restrictions after voters approved Proposal 3 in November to establish a constitutional right to reproductive care.
The 11-bill package — called the “Reproductive Health Act” and spearheaded by Sen. Sarah Anthony, D-Lansing, and Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, D-Livonia — would end the mandatory 24-hour waiting period for patients before abortions, repeal some structural requirements for abortion facilities and allow Medicaid to cover abortion services, among many things.
The legislation will not repeal the parental consent requirement even though abortion rights advocates have long sought to end it.
Democrats rolled out the package during a roundtable event Wednesday — the first day they returned to the Capitol from summer break.
“The implementation of these bills is urgent to ensure medical avenues are open to access safe, legal abortion across Michigan,” Pohutsky said in a statement.
Opponents argued the bills would relax regulations on abortion clinics and endanger the health of abortion patients in Michigan.
“This proposed legislation will strip basic health and safety protections for women, and it demonstrates the blind fervor with which Planned Parenthood is seeking to expand,” Genevieve Marnon, legislative director of Right to Life in Michigan wrote in a Wednesday email.
The package would also:
- Repeal the statewide ban on “partial-birth abortions” (a non-medical term that refers to abortions performed in late-term pregnancies)
- Repeal manslaughter penalties associated with abortions
- Reverse a ban on state funds dedicated to reproductive services
- Allow insurance companies to sell policies that treat abortions as a standard coverage area instead of an add-on service that requires purchasers to pay more in premium
- Allow universities to refer students to abortion providers
Democrats introduced similar legislation in 2019 and 2021, but efforts stalled because Republicans led the Legislature at the time. The re-introduction of the bills comes five months after Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill that repealed the 1931 abortion ban, which made most abortions a felony punishable by up to four years in prison.
The state Legislature — now controlled by Democrats for the first time in 40 years — also passed a law in May banning employers from discriminating against workers for having abortions.
Michigan’s parental consent law was the subject of debate before the vote on Proposal 3, with opponents claiming the constitutional amendment would do away with the law and other safeguards.
While that has not happened, abortion rights advocates such as ACLU Michigan director Loren Khogali say they will continue to fight against “unnecessary barriers” and continue “conversations and education about the parental consent law.
Pohutsky said Democrats excluded parental consent from the package because it could “have prohibited the rest of the package from getting through at this point in time.”
There were 30,120 induced abortions reported in Michigan last year, according to state statistics. Between 1982 and 2022, more than 1.2 million abortions have been reported in the state.
Structural requirements for abortion clinics
Current state law requires all abortion facilities that perform 120 or more surgical abortions each year and advertise abortion services to be licensed by the state as a “freestanding surgical outpatient facility.”
To qualify, a Michigan abortion clinic must meet structural standards on corridor width and procedure room size and must be located within 30 minutes of a hospital, according to the abortion rights research group Guttmacher Institute.
The proposed package would repeal those requirements, according to the bill language.
Critics of the repeal previously argued that the elimination of the law would compromise the safety standards abortion clinics must meet and make it harder to hold health care professionals accountable.
But the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar Texas law in 2016 that required abortion clinics to have hospital-like standards and physicians to have admitted privileges at a nearby hospital. Experts have said that repealing those requirements would not prohibit the state from still requiring abortion clinics to protect patients’ health.
Ending 24-hour waiting period, informed consent
The legislation would also eliminate a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before a patient can receive abortion and the informed consent requirement prior to the procedure.
Under current law, patients who seek abortion must sign a form confirming they have seen a photo or illustration of their fetus, understood the description of the procedure and received information on parental and prenatal care. They must also be screened for coercion to abort their fetus.
After they sign the form, they must wait at least 24 hours before accessing abortion care.
The process is “unnecessary” and turns people away from the care they need, said Sarah Wallett, an abortion provider in Michigan who also serves on the executive team of Planned Parenthood of Michigan.
“Patients don’t need that extra time to determine what’s best for them. Many of them have already received the information they needed and made their decision before they enter the doors,” she said.
Marnon of Right to Life in Michigan said the repeal of the informed consent requirement would go against “medical ethics and standard medical practice.”
“The proposed removal of common-sense regulations – regulations that were in place under Roe — serves the interests of the abortion industry, not women seeking abortions. We urge Michigan legislators to keep these long-standing, basic protections for women and girls in place.”
In a Tuesday news release, the Michigan Catholic Conference — an opponent of Proposal 3 and abortion rights — claimed that the majority of Michigan voters it polled are in favor of the informed consent law.
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