Everything old and evil is new again in Michigan
In a dramatic display of raw power, Michigan House Republicans pivoted from their anti-union, pro-corporate efforts to rush through a package of bills limiting women’s access to abortion services in what is being called “the most extreme legislation…anywhere in the country”.
A hearing held by the Health Policy House Committee was held this morning and then was abruptly ended, preventing opponents from voicing their opposition. The committee then passed the legislation and sent it to the full House.
A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan said about 90 people showed up at the Health Policy Committee hearing to testify against the bill, but Committee Chair Gail Haines (R-Waterford) abruptly ended the hearing and cut off all testimony after a Michigan Right to Life spokesperson and only a few others were able to speak.
“We had a lot of doctors there and members of the committee asking questions about what the full ramifications of a lot of these provisions could be, and quite frankly a lot of folks couldn’t answer them,” said Meghan Groen, a spokesperson for PPMSM.
Specifically, the omnibus bill would criminalize all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, without exceptions for rape victims, the health of the woman or in cases where there is a severe fetal anomaly. It would require health centers that provide abortions to have surgery rooms, even when they don’t provide surgical abortions. It would require doctors to be present for medication abortions and to screen women for “coercion” before providing an abortion, and it would create new regulations for the disposal of fetal remains.
The bill would also ban “telemedicine” abortions, or the use of technology to prescribe medication for abortion services and the morning-after pill.
“It could shut down most reproductive health centers in the state of Michigan,” said Groen. “It’s the most extreme legislation we’re seeing anywhere in the country.”
Lori Lamerand, President of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, issued the following statement:
Politicians in Lansing are working overtime to rush this bill through because they don’t want people to know the truth about this bill. This bill could ban abortion statewide. After passing the bill without public input from Michigan’s leading medical professionals, it’s clear this bill is about politics—not women’s health or safety.
Women in Michigan don’t turn to politicians in Lansing for advice about mammograms, prenatal care, or cancer treatments and politicians should not be involved in a woman’s personal medical decisions about her pregnancy.
Just months after Sandra Fluke was denied the chance to testify on behalf of women who use birth control on Capitol Hill, it’s unbelievable to think it’s happening to Michigan women in Lansing.
I first heard about the legislation from House Representative Jeff Irwin. Here’s what he wrote me:
More craziness in the Michigan House. In addition to the GOP’s twisted priorities that raise taxes on work so as to enable tax reductions on wealth and their desperate efforts to prevent people from voting, the Republicans in Michigan are turning to social issues and they’re moving laws that seek to eliminate reproductive rights by restricting access to providers.
Today, a number of bills were introduced that represent a broad attack on women’s rights and access to reproductive health services. The bills were introduced this week and rushed to committee this morning. The Republicans are indicating an interest in moving these bills through a final vote today.
In general, the bills set up impossible or nearly impossible hurdles for providers. Here is some detail:
Omnibus Abortion Restrictions
HB 5711 (Rendon), HB 5712 (Franz), HB 5713 (Shaughnessy) are sweeping abortion restrictions seeking to shut down all providers.
Status: Referred from the House Health Policy Committee. Being taken up for a final vote today, 6/7/12.·
What these bills do:
- 20 Week Ban: Bans abortions at 20 weeks and does NOT include a health exemption for the mother. Does NOT include exemption for rape, incest, fetal anomaly, and has limited medical emergency exemption. Also, the bill establishes that the Michigan legislature asserts that fetuses feel pain.
- Fetal Remains: A fetus 8 weeks gestation or over resulting from an abortion would be required to be disposed of in the same manner as other dead bodies: burial, cremation or interment. This is another simple way for the GOP to frustrate and add costs to these services.
- Creates unnecessary and burdensome licensing requirements for health centers that perform abortions: Eliminates the current exemption for health centers that perform primarily family planning services would be change the law to include all facilities that publically advertise outpatient abortion services and perform 6 or more abortions per month.
- Off-Label Prohibition: Prohibits the use of industry-recognized safe and common medication abortion practices. In plain terms, this will prevent doctors from prescribing medicine as they do now. Currently, doctors might prescribe a mix of abortion medications because that mix has proven to be most effective, with the minimum of side effects. These bills would prevent using the medication in a way not directed on the label.
- Telemedicine Ban: Prohibits the use of telemedicine to provide women with medication abortion services. These bills will prevent women in rural areas from access to emergency contraception if the medication is directed by a physician over the phone or internet.
- Liability Insurance: Requires physicians carry a minimum $1 million liability coverage if they perform 5 or more abortions per month and have been subject to 2 or more civil suits in the past 7 years or have been found noncompliant with health and safety requirements or has received sanctions.
- Coercion: Outlines new requirements for screening procedures for coercion and domestic violence.·Basically, these bills require that abortion providers provide a questionnaire to their clients that will apprise them of the illegality of coercion.
Congressman Gary Peters issued this statement:
Today Republicans in the Michigan State House advanced three more bills designed to make it harder for women to access important health care. The Tea Party’s war on women has gone on for too long; women’s health should not be a political bargaining chip and it’s time for Republicans to stop playing these dangerous games
Advocates for women’s rights to safe, affordable abortion services aren’t the only ones against this massive overreach. Doctors are, as well:
The Republican-controlled House Health Policy Committee passed the bills over the objections of physicians who say additional malpractice insurance could force some obstetricians and gynecologists to leave the state.
“It’s open season on us,” said Dr. Matthew Allswede, a Lansing ob/gyn who testified on behalf of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Dr. Timothy Johnson, an ob/gyn at the University of Michigan’s Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, said he’s opposed to women being coerced into having an abortion, but said the bill’s language is too broad and interferes with the confidential nature of doctor-patient relationships.
“Women are much more likely to be coerced by abusive partners to have a pregnancy” than abort the pregnancy, Johnson said.
Until now, Michigan Republicans have been nearly single-mindedly focused on executing the anti-union, pro-business, pro-privatization agenda of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Today’s action shows that, drunk with the power they have, they are now working to enact the agenda of anti-Choice groups like Right to Life of Michigan.
The House will vote on the bills this afternoon and it will be taken up by the Senate as early as July 18th, after they return from their summer break.
UPDATE: 7:25 p.m. – Although the House is still in session, I’m told they are not likely to vote on it today, after all. Probably next week is what I’m hearing.
UPDATE 2: 8:00 p.m. – The House has adjourned without taking up the omnibus anti-abortion package. It is likely to be taken up by the House next Tuesday, June 12th.
[Photo credit: Anne C. Savage, used with permission.]