Legislators target restrictive abortion laws

LANSING —Several Democratic members of the House and Senate in conjunction with the Progressive Women’s Caucus today introduced a package of bills that would reinstate and protect a woman’s right to reproductive health care. The legislation — sponsored by Reps. Pam Faris (D-Clio), Kristy Pagan (D-Canton), Christine Greig (D‐Farmington Hills), Vanessa Guerra (D-Saginaw), Leslie Love (D-Detroit), and Sens. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) and Curtis Hertel Jr. (D–East Lansing) — would help Michigan women who have been hurt by restrictive laws that make access to reproductive health care services difficult. The bills target problematic laws including Michigan’s abortion rider insurance law, and regulations about reproductive health information sharing, the informed consent wait period, and other restrictions that hinder health care access — and that have no proven, medical benefits.

“In recent years, we’ve seen legislation passed under the guise of ‘protecting women’s health’ that makes it nearly impossible for women to access abortion,” Sen. Warren said. “Once a woman has made a decision to end her pregnancy, politicians have no business interfering in her ability to access safe, high-quality medical care. These bills are critical steps toward eliminating the barriers to abortion access that exist in our state’s laws and ensuring that we are safeguarding and supporting women’s health.”

If passed, the package of bills introduced would:

  • Repeal Public Act 182 of 2013, which requires a woman to purchase a separate insurance rider for abortion services and prohibits insurance companies from covering such services in their policies otherwise.
  • Keep politics out of the exam room by preventing health care professionals from providing information that is not medically accurate and appropriate for the patient.
  • Affirm a patient’s right to abortion information by prohibiting a health facility from refusing to provide reproductive services if withholding them would result in health risks or limit a professional’s ability to practice medicine.
  • Repeal the requirement that patients must provide both written and verbal informed consent at least 24 hours before an abortion procedure.
  • Prevent double standards by stating that a law or regulation that places a burden on access to reproductive health care is unenforceable if that law or regulation does not have any legitimate health benefits.

“The Michigan law forcing women to buy a rider to an insurance policy to cover abortion, even in the case of rape and incest, victimizes these women twice,” Rep. Faris said. “Our legislation targets laws that interfere in the relationship between health care professionals and their patients. When it comes to health care, all women should be treated with respect and compassion.”

National studies show that when political interference restricts access to reproductive health care services, the harm falls hardest on low-income women and women of color.

“Decisions about whether to end a pregnancy, choose adoption, or raise a child are best made by a woman and her family,” Rep. Pagan said. “Instead of limited health care options, we need solutions that improve health care and remove barriers so that a woman can make the best reproductive health decisions for her and her family, based on her unique circumstances.”

In Michigan, less than ten of the state’s 42 health insurers have a so-called abortion rider policy that women need to purchase in anticipation of possibly wanting an abortion sometime in her future.

“Bold policies, like the legislation offered today, will ensure that Michigan is leading the way in reproductive health,” Rep. Greig said. “It’s time that we stop trying to use women’s health care to punish women for making her own important life decisions.”

The legislators were also joined by Jenny Lane, who shared her personal story and Amanda Sandles from Medical Students for Choice.

“Michigan laws are not designed to help a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy, or a pregnancy that puts her health or life at risk, or a pregnancy that has resulted from rape or incest,” Sen. Hertel said. “Instead, our laws should support and safeguard a woman’s health, not limit health care options and create artificial barriers to access.”

Bill sponsors agree that racial disparities are particularly pronounced when it comes to women’s reproductive health and access to affordable care.

“When political interference restricts access to reproductive health care, the harm falls hardest on low-income women, women of color and young women,” Rep. Love said. “Affordable, comprehensive health care that includes coverage for a full-range of pregnancy-related care, is critical to the health of every woman.”

Poor health outcomes for women of color are not just indicative of bad policy. They are evidence that Michigan needs to reform existing, restrictive laws to provide all women equal access to reproductive health care.

“This package is the first step to undoing the dangerous regulations that have been placed on women,” Rep. Guerra said. “Now is the time to stand up and speak up for rights that have been guaranteed to us for more than 40 years.”

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