PWC calls for end to state’s unconstitutional abortion laws

LANSING, Mich., Nov. 10, 2021 — The Progressive Women’s Caucus (PWC) was joined by representatives of Planned Parenthood and the ACLU for the introduction of the Michigan Reproductive Health Act (RHA), which would guarantee individuals’ freedom to make decisions about their own reproductive health, including to have an abortion.

“Every Michigander deserves access to safe and affordable reproductive care,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. “That’s why I’ve called on the legislature to repeal the nearly century-old law that strips fundamental rights from women and criminalizes doctors for providing critical health care services. The legislation introduced today would protect the constitutional right to choose. As long as I am governor, I will always stand up for reproductive rights.”

House Bill 5542, sponsored by state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia), would guarantee every Michigander the right to decide whether or not to use contraception, undergo sterilization or continue a pregnancy. It would also remove the unnecessary barriers people currently face when seeking an abortion in Michigan.

In addition to Pohutsky’s bill, six companion bills (House Bills 5543-5548) would further update sections of state law to comply with changes the RHA would require once enacted.

“I know firsthand how deeply personal it is to choose to have an abortion,” said state Rep. Christine Morse (D-Texas Township), sponsor of House Bill 5548.  “I had to decide whether to treat my breast cancer and have an abortion or carry my pregnancy to term and jeopardize my life. I am lucky that I had the right to pursue the health care that was best for me. Access to reproductive health care — including safe, legal abortions — needs to be guaranteed for the people of today and for generations to come.”

The state Senate has also introduced the RHA package to mirror what was introduced in the House.

“Right now, reproductive health care rights are under attack across the country, and we’re looking at a high likelihood that Roe v. Wade will fall in the U.S. Supreme Court,” said state Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) who sponsors one of the bills. “When that happens, abortion will be illegal in Michigan based on our current 1931 law. We know that outlawing abortion does not prevent abortion — it merely puts people in danger of unsafe medical procedures, increasing their risk of injury and even death. We must codify the Reproductive Health Act into law to ensure all Michiganders have access to safe medical care and ensure we empower them to determine if, when and how to pursue a pregnancy.”

Michigan state law includes numerous restrictions on abortion care, serving as barriers to access for people seeking it as a safe, constitutionally-protected health care option. Additionally, medically unnecessary and burdensome standards are imposed on abortion providers across the state in an attempt to criminalize those administering the best medically appropriate care for each of their patient’s unique circumstances.

“Legislators don’t belong in the doctor’s office with people who are making personal decisions about their reproductive health,” said state Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), sponsor of a bill in the RHA package. “These decisions are often difficult and traumatic, and always personal, especially when faced with a life or death situation. Ultimately, it should not be the government’s responsibility to decide what is best for a patient in those situations. Individuals should have a right to manage their own reproductive health the way that it works best for them and it’s time our laws respect everyone’s right to choose.”

“As an abortion provider, I have to follow the needless, medically unnecessary restrictions passed by lawmakers that make it harder for my patients to access the care they need, when they need it,” said Dr. Sarah Wallett, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of Michigan. “These restrictions do nothing to make my patients healthier or safer. I have to tell parents who scrambled to find a babysitter, transportation and time off work that they’ll have to come back tomorrow, thanks to a state-mandated — and totally needless — 24-hour waiting period. There is no legitimate reason to require this delay, and yet it exists — just to make life harder for people who need an abortion. The same can be said for every abortion restriction on the books in this state.”

Sponsors of companion bills to the RHA include state Reps. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Township), Samantha Steckloff (D-Farmington Hills), Mari Manoogian (D-Birmingham), and Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids), and state Sens. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills), Sylvia Santana (D-Warrendale), and Betty Jean Alexander (D-Detroit).

A video of the press conference can be found on the Progressive Women’s Caucus Facebook page.