healthcare, War on Women, Women — September 21, 2015 at 9:58 am

Michigan Legislature takes up bills that put government between women and doctors


Take action: Tell Michigan lawmakers to stop the attacks on women’s health and trust women to make their own choices.

UPDATE: Committee vote on coercive abortion bills scheduled for the morning of Tuesday, September 29. Contact the committee immediately and request a NO vote on House Bills 4787 and 4830. Details in the original post below.

They still haven’t figured out a way to fund road repairs or improve support for our public schools, but Republicans in the Michigan Legislature have a laser-like focus on stopping women from accessing legal, safe healthcare services.

On Tuesday, September 22, the House Criminal Justice Committee will hold a hearing on two anti-choice bills that seek to criminalize coercive abortion. Although it may seem like a good thing to prevent anyone from forcing a woman to have an abortion, it’s a non-problem in search of a hearing to mobilize the anti-Choice base. In fact, any such legislation is redundant and unnecessary. Michigan’s existing informed consent law already mandates that a woman’s consent to an abortion must be “given freely without coercion.”

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Michigan oppose House Bills 4787 and 4830, which are the by-product of a decades-long public and political anti-choice campaign to market the theory that abortion is harmful to women.

Supporters of coercive abortion laws are actually trying to limit women’s access to abortion based on the concept that any woman who seeks an abortion does so because she is confused, misled, or coerced — something studies consistently find to be untrue. The anti-abortion rhetoric used to support these misguided laws uses gender-conventional convictions – that women are too weak or confused to be held responsible for their choices, and need the law’s protection to become mothers – ultimately results in abortion restrictions that are wildly over- and under-inclusive. It’s blatantly sexist and offensive to assume that women simply can’t make their own healthcare decisions.

Even more troubling, coercive abortion laws do not address the very real dilemmas some female victims of domestic abuse face. Coercive abortion is a very small piece of the puzzle of the much larger problem of violence against women and the impact it has on their health. Focusing solely on coercive abortion, like HBs 4787 and 4830, takes away from the very broad problem of domestic violence and reproductive coercion. If the Michigan Legislature genuinely wants to help victims of abuse, they should focus on policies that address the broader issues of domestic violence and reproductive coercion.

These bills are disingenuous and an attempt to trick people into thinking the bills’ sponsors actually care about women. The real solution to reproductive coercion is not to impede women’s access to abortion services — and to look at policies that address all forms of reproductive coercion, such as tampering with a woman’s birth control method or forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy against her will. Instead of another end-run around Roe v. Wade, the Michigan legislature should be working to help equip healthcare professionals with the tools they need to screen patients for all forms of domestic violence and reproductive coercion.

When you think about it, limiting a woman’s access to abortion is the worst kind of reproductive coercion, because it forces many women to carry children to term against their wishes. But by placing yet another restriction on legal abortion care, that’s exactly what these bills would do.

The House Criminal Justice Committee is holding a hearing on these bills on Tuesday, September 22. Contact the committee members now to say you oppose this legislation or submit testimony. Better yet, attend the hearing to voice your opposition. Updates on the time of the hearing and how to contact the committee can be found HERE. If you can attend the hearing or need more information, contact Merissa Kovach at the ACLU of Michigan.

Also on the horizon: Rep. Kurt Heise, Chair of the House Criminal Justice Committee, has announced his intention to bring a dangerous package of bills that would restrict women’s access to abortion up for a hearing in the next couple weeks. House Bills 4833 and 4834, seek to criminalize the safest method of abortion for many women seeking care in Michigan.

These bills would allow politicians to dictate how physicians perform these procedures when they are needed — forcing women in Michigan to instead receive medical care that is not based on medical standards, is invasive, and carries great risk. If passed, these bills would be an unprecedented intrusion into a woman’s relationship with her doctor. A similar law was challenged in Kansas just this year, and the court blocked the law from taking effect on the grounds that it is likely unconstitutional. It’s important that legislators, especially members of the House Criminal Justice Committee, hear from constituents who care about protecting women’s health.

While you’re contacting the House Criminal Justice Committee about the abortion coercion bills, express your objection to HBs 4833 and 4834, too. Also reach out to the sponsor of the abortion method ban bills: Representative Laura Cox, 517-373-3920.

Oh, and one more thing: The Michigan Senate apparently doesn’t have enough actual work to do, so they’ve created an oversight committee to investigate Planned Parenthood following the release of the heavily edited, discredited videos released in a so-called “sting” operation — despite the many states that have already found Planned Parenthood not guilty of any wrongdoing whatsoever.

Your tax dollars at work, ladies and gentlemen, being used to take legal, safe healthcare choices out of the hands of women and doctors.

[Photo credit: Mikasi | Flickr]