Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses attendees at a Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan lobby day in Lansing on May 2, 2023. | Anna Liz Nichols
Michigan voters approved the constitutional right to abortion in the last election, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently signed a repeal of a 1930s trigger law criminalizing abortion. But attendees at a Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan (PPAM) lobby day on Tuesday say it’s not enough.
When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, Michigan was left with a 1931 abortion ban on the books, though preliminary injunctions issued by judges kept it from being enforced. Then Michigan voters approved, Prop 3, a reproductive health care amendment to the state constitution in November.
Whitmer and other speakers at the lobby day impressed upon attendees the need to solidify the right to reproductive health care in Michigan law and remove hurdles to abortion that remain on the books.
“There is more work to do here to repeal outdated, medically unnecessary, unconstitutional abortion restrictions,” Whitmer said at the event at Lansing Central United Methodist Church. “There are several pieces of legislation and policies that we can pursue and I look forward to working with all of my allies here with Planned Parenthood and my partners in the legislature to make sure that we get it done.”
The policy recommendations from PPAM include removing the requirement for consent from a parent or legal guardian for a minor to access an abortion and removing the 24-hour waiting period for an abortion.
All policy recommendations are rooted in ensuring young or other vulnerable populations can access reproductive health care with minimal barriers, PPAM Executive Director Nicole Wells Stallworth said during the event.
“We need to treat abortion like other forms of health care; abortion is a procedure,” Wells Stallworth said. “We want to make sure that we are not making it prohibitive or cost-prohibitive or resource-prohibitive for providers to be able to provide abortion and also for patients to be able to access care and there are many health care access deserts in and around the state of Michigan.”
It’s time to move past the 1950’s and get rid of old laws limiting reproductive health care that can keep women out of the workforce and educational opportunities, Lansing resident Deborah Waugh, 57, said at the event.
“I was fortunate enough to have access to Planned Parenthood throughout my entire reproductive life,” Waugh said. “When I was in college, they were the only source of reproductive health care and contraception.”
PPAM is also asking lawmakers to remove the requirement that abortion-providing facilities meeting certain criteria be licensed as free-standing surgical outpatient facilities, therefore being required to have physical structural standards comparable to hospital surgical centers.
Democratic lawmakers have pushed for some of the policies within PPAM’s recommendations in the past, notably in the form of the failed Reproductive Health Act, which Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) said she’s going to give another try to pass this legislative session.
“Prop 3 is an amazing safeguard that we have here that a lot of other states don’t, but that does not mean that opponents to abortion are not going to still do everything they can even within that framework to restrict access to abortion in this state,” Pohutsky said.
Pohutsky, who spoke to attendees on Tuesday, said she hopes to reintroduce the legislation before summer. Democrats now control both the House and Senate.
Interest from PPAM in changing blocks on insurance coverage for abortions is old business for Whitmer. Back in 2013, the then-Republican-majority Legislature approved what Whitmer, who was Senate minority leader, and other opponents called the “rape insurance” law. The legislation made it so private insurance companies, policies for public employees and plans through the Affordable Care Act don’t cover abortion unless it endangers the life of the pregnant person, leaving people to have to purchase additional coverage.
In 2013, Whimer spoke on the Senate floor in opposition, chastising her colleagues who supported the legislation calling it “ignorant” and “repulsive.”
“This is by far one of the most misogynistic proposals I’ve ever seen in the Michigan Legislature,” Whitmer said in 2013.
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