Whitmer, Democratic lawmakers target Michigan's abortion rules

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Democratic state lawmakers are pushing legislation that would repeal many of Michigan’s abortion rules, including Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban that is largely unenforceable while the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision remains in place.

The yet-to-be-introduced legislation would also repeal state laws requiring a 24-hour waiting period, informed consent, parental consent for minors, bans on telemedicine and limits on private and state-provided insurance coverage for abortions.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a press conference Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 in Lansing announcing future legislation that would repeal several of Michigan's abortion laws.

The GOP-controlled Legislature is unlikely to vote on the Reproductive Health Act. Most Republican lawmakers were elected with backing from Right to Life of Michigan.

“We are all acutely aware of how gerrymandered this Legislature is and that it's an uphill battle, but it doesn’t mean you don’t fight it,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who joined Democratic lawmakers at the Tuesday legislative announcement. 

"If Michigan is going to protect all people under the law, it starts with the fundamentals of making sure that we are autonomous in our medical decisions," she said.

Republicans have rejected accusations of gerrymandering, noting Democrats flipped five GOP seats in both the state House and state Senate in the 2018 election.

The bills come as two ballot committees in Michigan circulate petitions. One proposed initiative would prohibit abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected, while the other would prohibit dilation and evacuation abortions, usually used during the second trimester of pregnancy and referred to as “dismemberment abortion” in the petition language.

The initiatives and other restrictions being introduced throughout the country partially prompted the legislation, said Rep. Kristy Pagan, D-Canton, the lead sponsor.

“We must pass the Michigan Reproductive Health Act and regulate abortion care like all other forms of medical care and leave important life-saving decisions between a patient and her doctor,” Pagan said.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan has explored the possibility of collecting signatures to try to put its own pro-abortion initiative on the ballot but is not currently planning on one for 2020.

“Like anyone else, looking forward to the election we have to prioritize what our needs are … what we want for the state and what’s possible,” said Angela Vasquez-Giroux, a spokeswoman for the group.

The legislation outlined by Democrats would allow for “unlimited abortion-on-demand,” a concept that most Michigan residents don’t support, Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing said in a Tuesday statement.

Listing took exception to Whitmer's statement during the press conference when she referenced the “dismemberment abortion” bills first introduced in the Legislature, and her vow to veto the bills “if they ever have the backbone to send them to my desk.”

“Pro-life people have plenty of backbone, which is why we continue to collect 400,000 signatures on a bill to end the dismemberment abortion procedure that rips backbones out of viable children,” Listing said. “Most Americans do not support late-term abortions, and it’s time for Gov. Whitmer to respect that Michigan values life.”