‘Watered-down’ version of bills repealing abortion restrictions head to Whitmer
- The Michigan Senate approved a scaled-back abortion access plan along party lines, leaving in place a 24-hour waiting period
- A lone Democrat blocked broader legislation backed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and abortion rights advocates
- The bills now headed to Whitmer’s desk will repeal a ban on ‘partial birth abortions’ and remove a requirement to pay extra for abortion insurance coverage
The Michigan Senate on Tuesday finalized what some advocates called a “watered-down” version of Democratic abortion rights measures that left intact a controversial law requiring women to wait 24 hours before they can have an abortion.
A narrowly tailored version of the "Reproductive Health Act" and related bills passed the Senate in a series of party-line votes over uniform opposition from Republicans and will now head to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who had called for broader reforms.
In a statement following the bills’ passage, Whitmer, a Democrat, said lawmakers took “important steps toward expanding access and protecting our personal freedoms,” noting the bills would get rid of “politically motivated and medically unnecessary” abortion restrictions.
- Michigan House axes some abortion limits; can’t get votes to end 24-hour wait
- Michigan Senate votes to repeal 24-hour wait for abortion, other restrictions
- Activists pressure Detroit lawmaker opposed to Michigan abortion bills
- Meet the Democrat blocking Michigan abortion bills. She says she’s not alone
If she signs the bills, as expected, the legislation will repeal:
- A 2013 law that prohibits insurance companies from covering abortion unless customers pay extra for an optional “rider;”
- The state’s so-called “partial birth” abortion ban that, since 2011, had barred an abortion procedure typically used late in pregnancies; and,
- Various regulations and building codes for abortion facilities that have been criticized for making it more difficult to open new clinics.
Not included in the final package was a repeal of an existing "informed consent" law that requires a 24-hour waiting period before women can obtain an abortion, and a provision to allow the government-funded Medicaid insurance program to pay for abortions.
House leaders scaled back the legislation following public opposition from Rep. Karen Whitsett, a Detroit Democrat who said she supports the right to an abortion, but disagreed that Medicaid funding should be used for the procedure. Whitsett also said she believes it’s “not too much to ask” for people seeking abortions to take time to consider the decision.
Advocates say the waiting period is unnecessarily cumbersome, especially for people who travel from out of town and may not know about the waiting period until they arrive in Michigan. In those cases, patients have to make arrangements to stay an extra day, which can be costly and delays their care.
Senate Democrats had previously voted to repeal the 24-hour waiting period. But in the narrowly divided House, even one Democrat siding with Republicans in opposition to the repeal would prevent leadership from hitting the needed 56-vote majority.
Whitmer had asked Michigan lawmakers to pass a more expansive version of the package as one of her top fall priorities, arguing Democrats should use their new majorities to “protect the freedom to make your own decisions without interference from politicians.”
Republicans were unanimously opposed and argued that the bills go well beyond what voters approved in a 2022 ballot referendum that added protections for abortion access to the Michigan Constitution.
Sen. Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, on Tuesday questioned why repealing the state’s ban on the “intact dilation and extraction” procedure, which opponents call “partial birth abortion” is necessary, noting these procedures — typically performed late in pregnancies — are already unlikely given federal restrictions on late-term abortions.
“One may argue that this procedure rarely happens, but that does not mean that we should not have a law prohibiting it,” he said.
Senate Democrats said in floor speeches that repealing Michigan’s ban on such procedures would default the state to federal law and do away with restrictions they argued harm parents forced to terminate wanted pregnancies late in the process due to medical emergencies.
“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 in a Senate floor speech.
After the package passed the House last week, a coalition of abortion rights groups — including Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and Reproductive Freedom for All Michigan — called the revised bills an “incremental improvement.”
In a written statement, the groups called the final legislation a “watered-down version of the Reproductive Health Act that lacks key policy reforms that are both desperately needed and widely supported by voters across the state.”
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