Michiganders have never lost access to reproductive health care since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. But state lawmakers say there’s still more work to be done.
MICHIGAN—Saturday marks one full year since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, rejecting nationwide protections for abortion care and leaving individual state legislatures to decide whether or not they’ll allow women to make their own health care decisions.
As a result, abortions are now completely or mostly banned in more than a dozen states.
All told, about half of the states in the US have tried (or are still expected to try) to enact bans or limits on abortions in the aftermath of last year’s ruling. But Michigan, along with several other states, has emerged as a safe haven for women, with clear protections for reproductive health care.
And ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is promising to do everything in her power to continue defending Michiganders’ right to reproductive freedom.
“As reproductive freedom remains under attack in other states, we are taking action to guarantee that Michiganders have the right to make reproductive health care decisions that are best for them,” Whitmer said. “We have made real progress, but the work must continue.”
She added: “I’ll keep fighting to make our state a welcoming beacon of opportunity.”
Reproductive Freedom in Michigan
Michiganders have never lost access to reproductive health care over the past year.
On the same day of the Supreme Court decision, Whitmer filed a motion urging a court to immediately consider a lawsuit that sought to declare the state’s 1931 abortion ban as unconstitutional. An injunction prevented it from ever being enforced. Two months later, a judge’s order effectively barring prosecutors from enforcing the ban, and later formally declared the archaic state law to be unconstitutional.
In November, an overwhelming majority of Michiganders also voted in support of Proposal 3, which effectively cemented reproductive freedoms into the state Constitution.
The constitutional protections included in Proposal 3 made Michigan the 10th state to protect reproductive freedoms and ensure its residents have access to safe, legal abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. Whitmer also cited another added benefit: “Good economics.”
“By getting this done, we will help attract talent and business investment too,” Whitmer said.
And in April, Whitmer signed legislation to officially repeal the unenforceable 1931 abortion ban.
“Michiganders sent a clear message: we deserve to make our own decisions about our bodies,” Whitmer said in April. “Standing up for people’s fundamental freedoms is the right thing to do.”
In the year that has passed since the Dobbs decision, Whitmer has also directed insurance companies to ensure reproductive health care is covered to the fullest extent possible, as well as urged President Joe Biden to make birth control available over the counter without a prescription.
She also signed an executive order refusing to extradite women who come to Michigan for abortion care. And just last month, Whitmer also signed new legislation into state law that prohibits employers from discriminating against women because they’ve had an abortion.
Her support for reproductive freedom has proven to be popular among Michiganders:
Polling shows that 77% of Michiganders believed abortion should be a woman’s decision to make with a medical professional, and not dictated by the government. Right-wing politicians’ fierce opposition to those basic human rights may have also played a role in Republicans losing majority control of the state legislature for the first time in decades.
‘Much Work to be Done’
Paula Thornton Greear, president of Planned Parenthood of Michigan, applauds the progress that Michigan has made in protecting reproductive freedom, but this week said there is still “much work to be done” to eliminate barriers and expand access to reproductive health care.
“People across the country are being forced to travel hundreds of miles to access abortion services, putting their health and lives at risk,” she said in a statement. “Every day we hear from patients who are struggling to overcome the political barriers designed to block them from care.”
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks told Michigan Advance that lawmakers aren’t done with their work to safeguard reproductive rights and expand access to abortion care. While she didn’t specify any specific changes to any specific laws, Brinks said that lawmakers can do more to expand insurance coverage for abortion and make it easier for women to access care.
“The whole idea under past legislatures controlled by anti-choice majorities, they would try to throw up unnecessary barriers that are not related to medical care because of their personal beliefs about reproductive health—and that’s simply not the job of government,” Brinks said.
Among the items on Brinks’ radar this year: Insurance blocks that put restrictions on abortion.
Michigan bans health plans under the Affordable Care Act from covering abortions, except if a pregnancy endangers the life of the mother. Brinks told Michigan Advance that the insurance rider required for abortion care is a “problematic way to treat one specific medical service.”
“We’d certainly take a look at that,” she said.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan has also urged lawmakers to remove the requirement that minors have parental consent to access abortion care, as well as remove the 24-hour waiting period required to receive an abortion. Brinks said all laws will be examined.
“Having the legal right alone to abortion is not enough, we must have access to it,” Loren Khogali, director of the ACLU of Michigan, said in a statement. “Today, tomorrow, and for the foreseeable future, we look forward to fighting alongside leaders like Governor Whitmer to ensure this essential healthcare is delivered equitably and accessibly for anyone who needs it.”
Whitmer has already signaled that she would sign forthcoming legislation to repeal barriers to abortion care—including laws that mandate “biased, medically inaccurate” pre-abortion counseling and “discriminatory” mandatory waiting periods, she said in a statement this week.
Federal lawmakers last week also reintroduced a bill that would guarantee access to birth control, regardless of any future Supreme Court rulings. The measure would reportedly ensure health care providers have a right to share information about contraception as well as provide it.
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