Michigan Cares About Right to Work, But Not the Right to an Abortion


Amidst the protesting and counter-protesting over right to work in Michigan, residents of the Wolverine State may have forgotten about yet another right currently being contested in the state: the right to an abortion.

The days of Michigan's lame duck Congress are numbered, and those on the far right are doing everything they can to push through their legislation before they lose their power, including passing one of the most extreme anti-abortion bills in the nation early on Friday morning. How early? Let's just say you have to get up (or stay up) before 2 A.M. to know what the Michigan GOP is up to.

Having passed the House and the Senate, the bill now awaits Governor Rick Snyder's approval. Snyder is staunchly pro-life, believing that life begins at conception. He is expected to sign the bill into law.

The bill, HB 5711, already passed the Michigan Senate earlier this week. While one of the most controversial parts of the mega-bill — a requirement that "an aborted fetus be buried, cremated or interred" — was removed from the final version, lawmakers in Michigan managed to keep most of the bill intact. HB 5711 will "prohibit the tele-med prescription of medical abortion, enact several new costly and difficult requirements for abortion clinics and providers, and place new barriers between women and abortion by enforcing 'coercion screenings' on abortion-seeking women."

The super bill includes several Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws which are designed to make it more difficult for women's health providers to offer abortion services by instituting unreasonable or extraneous clinic standards, amongst other measures. In Michigan's case, the TRAP regulations including requiring "clinics doing more than 120 abortions a year to be licensed and adhere to the same standards and regulations as free-standing surgical clinics." The measure would shut down most clinics currently providing abortions in the state. Republican Representative Thomas Hooker commented, “We must make sure that abortion clinics are safe until we can end the scourge of abortion."

The Senate also passed three other laws which prohibit all insurance coverage for abortion. (Federal insurance coverage for abortion is already prohibited under the new health care law, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.) Jezebel's Katie Baker explains, "To clarify, that means women won't be able to use insurance to get an abortion under the Affordable Care Act or any insurance plans offered in the state, except in the case of threat to the life (not health) of the mother." And Michigan is not alone in implementing these kinds of rules. The ACLU notes that eight states prohibit all comprehensive plans from providing abortion coverage, while 12 more "prohibit comprehensive plans from covering abortion in future health insurance markets." (Guttmacher provides a detailed list of these restrictions.)

While Mitt Romney may blithely announce that abortion has been "settled in the courts" since Roe v. Wade, the truth is that state-level restrictions on abortion have been increasing in recent years, potentially putting Roe v. Wade in danger. Over 32 states passed anti-abortion legislation in the past two years alone. As Michigan protester and Unitarian minister Jeff Liebmann noted, “Even though the Supreme Court doesn’t allow a state to ban abortions, these bills make it virtually impossible for any lab to offer them, or any woman to afford them.”