Michigan Dems advance bills to protect access to fertility care amid right-wing attacks

By Kyle Kaminski

March 15, 2024

The Michigan Family Protection Act would create new legal protections for parents who choose to use fertility treatments, surrogacy, or any other form of assisted reproduction—including in-vitro fertilization treatment. 

MICHIGAN—A package of bills headed for a vote in the state Senate aims to protect access to fertility care, repeal restrictions on surrogacy, and create new legal safeguards for Michiganders who choose to use assisted fertility technology—like in-vitro fertilization (IVF)—to have children.

The nine bills—collectively known as the Michigan Family Protection Act—were approved by the House last year, a Senate committee this week, and are now en route to a full Senate vote.

If they’re passed, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has already indicated that she would sign the “common-sense package of bills” into law. In a statement this week, she said the proposed legislation would make it much easier for Michiganders to start a family, save them time and money on government paperwork, and ensure all parents are treated equally under state law.

“Decisions about if, when, and how to have a child are deeply personal. Politicians should not be dictating the terms of these private decisions that should be left to a family, their doctor, and those they love and trust,” Whitmer said. “I will continue working closely with my partners in the Legislature to make our state the best place to start, raise, and grow your family.”   

Here’s the deal:

Republican-led efforts to restrict abortion across the country resulted in a controversial ruling at the Alabama Supreme Court last month that found frozen embryos in test tubes are legally considered people, and that those who destroy them can be held liable for wrongful death.

In response to the ruling, several clinics in Alabama stopped providing IVF services out of fear they could face prosecution for lost or discarded embryos. And while the ruling only applied in Alabama (and the state’s government has since passed a bill protecting IVF patients and providers from legal liability), the court decision has left many across the country fearing that fertility treatments could be the next target of the anti-abortion movement.

What’s going on in Michigan?

In Michigan, the right to reproductive freedom—and the “right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters related to pregnancy”—has been enshrined in the state Constitution after voters overwhelmingly passed Proposal 3 in 2022. That includes access to IVF treatment.

Since then, however, the right-wing attacks on reproductive freedom have only continued. 

There have been bills introduced in over a dozen states—and at the federal level—that would effectively have the same IVF-banning consequences as the Alabama ruling.

This year, Right to Life Michigan filed a lawsuit challenging Proposal 3, threatening access to IVF, prenatal care, and other forms of reproductive health care. Another pending case in the US Supreme Court could threaten access to medication abortion nationwide—including in Michigan, where five Republican lawmakers signed a brief urging the court to restrict access to the drug.

Reports also show that ex-President Donald Trump has detailed plans to pursue a nationwide abortion ban if elected to another term. As a result, reproductive rights advocates are warning that Michiganders shouldn’t get too complacent about their new constitutional rights to abortion—because reproductive freedoms will still be decided in this year’s presidential election

Meanwhile, Democrats in the state Senate are taking proactive steps to protect access to IVF and ensure equal rights for Michigan parents who choose assisted fertility care or surrogacy.

What’s in the bills?

Michigan is the only state in the nation that currently criminalizes paid surrogacy contracts, where a woman agrees to be impregnated through artificial insemination (or another woman’s fertilized egg) and give birth to a child who will be raised by others, often in exchange for monetary compensation.

The Michigan Family Protection Act would formally repeal that ban in Michigan, as well as amend state law to establish clear legal rights of parents, surrogates, and children who are born using surrogacy and other forms of assisted reproductive technology—including IVF treatment. 

In order to have a contract under the bills, surrogates must have previously given birth and be 21 or older, have a medical and mental health consultation, and have access to independent legal representation of their choice paid for by the intended parents, Michigan Advance reports.

Lawmakers said the bills are designed to help ensure Michiganders who serve as surrogates are fairly compensated, legally represented, and cared for during the course of a pregnancy.

Other bills in the package reportedly aim to amend state law to protect the rights of kids who are born through surrogacy—specifically dealing with inheritances and access to birth certificates and ensuring that children born through IVF or surrogacy are treated equally under the law.

Whitmer said the legislation would also tweak an outdated state law that requires LGBTQ families to go through a “costly and invasive process” to legitimize their legal rights as parents. 

In a statement, she said the “common-sense” legislation would make “long overdue” changes.

“These changes will support parents in Michigan and guarantee that every child is treated equally and protected by the law, no matter how their parents choose to start a family,” she said. “I look forward to reviewing and then signing the Michigan Family Protection Act.”

The legislation was sponsored by nine Democratic lawmakers: state Reps. Samantha Stekloff (D-Farmington Hills); Christine Morse (D-Texas Township); Kelly Breen (D-Novi); Jason Hoskins (D-Southfield); Jennifer Conlin (D-Ann Arbor Township); Jason Morgan (D-Ann Arbor); Penelope Tsernoglou (D-East Lansing); Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia); and Amos O’Neal (D-Saginaw).

All nine bills were voted out of committee this week by a 5-2 party line vote, with Republican Sens. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) and Ruth Johnson (R-Holly) having voted against them.

READ MORE: Michigan Dems introduce federal bill to protect IVF after Alabama ruling

For the latest Michigan news, follow The ‘Gander on Twitter.

Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.


  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.


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