LANSING, Aug. 31, 2023 — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivered the “What’s Next Address” yesterday, outlining her legislative agenda for the remainder of the year and beyond. Safeguarding reproductive health is among the governor’s top priorities. This too has been an agenda item for House Democrats, and it continues to be as they prepare to begin the fall legislative session in Lansing. Reproductive rights is one of the central priorities on the legislators’ “putting people first” agenda — the lawmakers will focus on passing protections under the Reproductive Health Act, securing abortion rights and ensuring access to affordable reproductive health care.
Though abortion care remains legal in Michigan, and Democrats spearheaded the repeal of the draconian 1931 abortion ban earlier this year, reproductive freedoms remain under threat in Michigan due to harmful laws. Such politically motivated laws place medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion care — the Reproductive Health Act aims to remove restrictions to abortion and ensure access to abortion cannot be denied.
“Michiganders overwhelmingly supported enshrining the right to reproductive freedom in our state constitution, but our work is far from done,” said Speaker Pro Tempore Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia), chair of the Progressive Women’s Caucus. “A right is not truly a right if it is not accessible to everyone in our state, and it is crucial we remain vigilant here in Michigan. The restrictive laws that remain on the books are founded on misogynistic ideologies that aim to control people’s bodies and our freedoms. It is not my nor any other lawmaker’s job to interfere with a person’s reproductive health decisions. Reproductive freedom is a right, and it is our job to further safeguard that right and ensure it is available to all Michiganders, which is why we must pass the RHA.”
Along with passing legislation to repeal the 1931 abortion ban, lawmakers also passed HB 4032 to eliminate the ban from the state’s Code of Criminal Procedure to legalize the procurement of abortion medication. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the bill into law this year.
“Making the decision to seek an abortion isn’t one most take lightly. For those who make this choice, it’s important they be supported and offered various pathways in doing so,” said state Rep. Stephanie A. Young (D-Detroit). “There have been threats in other states to restrict access to mifepristone and misoprostol, and there are even reproductive health care professionals in some states who are afraid to provide care to patients who have made the difficult decision to end a pregnancy or are miscarrying. Here in Michigan, we are keeping up the fight to prevent criminal punishment for medically induced abortions or for miscarriages. These Michiganders deserve our support and not criminalization.”
The number of abortion clinics has steadily declined over the last 40 years in Michigan, with even more reproductive health care facilities under continued threat of closure due to unnecessary restrictions. The decline in reproductive care centers has a disproportionately negative impact on lower-resourced populations, especially those living in rural areas.
“Just because abortion is legal in Michigan doesn’t mean it is accessible,” said state Rep. Jenn Hill (D-Marquette). “In more rural areas, like those in the U.P., fewer women’s clinics means people have to travel hours and hours just to receive quality health care. That’s simply not a financial or practical option for many folks. This is why it is so critical that we ensure reproductive health care is accessible and affordable for all Michiganders, no matter where they live or how much their paycheck is.”
In addition to reproductive and abortion rights, funding and safeguarding Michiganders’ health care more broadly has also been on Michigan Democratic policymakers’ priority list.
“House Democrats not only campaigned on the promise of protecting reproductive choice, but on expanding access to quality and affordable healthcare. And we have kept our promise,” said state Rep. Natalie Price (D-Berkley). “For example, we provided record funding in this year’s budget for maternal-infant health, which has been historically underfunded. This investment is especially important for communities of color, which have a higher infant-mortality rate. It’s a start, and there is no question more needs to be done. I am excited to continue this work with my colleagues — investing in people, our health and our communities.”