Thursday, December 6, 2012

Michigan Lawmakers Are Trying To Sneak Through Extreme Abortion Restrictions In Lame Duck Session

Women’s health advocates confirm that Michigan lawmakers are likely to revive on Thursday an omnibus anti-abortion bill that sparked widespread protests after it passed the House this summer, in addition to a host of other restrictive abortion legislation they hope to force through the current lame duck session.

As Michigan’s current attempt to pass anti-union legislation dominates the coverage surrounding the state legislature, lawmakers are using the opportunity to revisit anti-abortion measures they hope to slip through before this session ends. Since five anti-choice state legislators lost their seats in last month’s election, this may be the best time for the legislature to advance their far-right agenda — despite the fact that the majority of Michigan residents support legal access to abortion. On Thursday afternoon, the state senate may consider multiple anti-abortion bills that aim to:

1) Regulate abortion clinics out of existence. HB 5711, the massive 45-page legislation that sparked a massive outcry when the House considered it in June, contains additional and unnecessary regulations for abortion providers. HB 5711 would subject any facilities that perform 6 or more abortions per month to burdensome regulations that could be so costly that they force clinics to close their doors, an indirect method of targeting abortion providers.

2) Limit abortion access for women in rural areas. HB 5711 would also place restrictions on telemedical abortions, which provide essential health services to women in rural areas who often lack any access to nearby abortion doctors. Even though telemedical procedures have been proven to be safe and effective, Michigan lawmakers seek to require doctors to be physically present to administer abortion services.

3) Impose further guidelines for the disposal of fetal remains. Michigan already has regulations in place to instruct medical professions about how they must dispose of fetal remains, but HB 5711 wants to go a step further, requiring fetal remains to be treated in the exact same manner as dead bodies. Doctors would be forced to fill out death forms and make arrangements for the fetal remains’ cremation or burial, imposing an emotional burden on the women whose pregnancies end through a medical miscarriage. No other state handles fetal remains at 10 weeks in the same way as it handles dead bodies.

4) Prevent private insurance companies from covering any abortion services. A trio of companion bills — SBs 612, 613, and 614 — would work together to ban the health insurance exchange that Michigan will set up under Obamacare from covering abortion, as well as ban private insurers from covering any abortion services under their general insurance plans. Currently, 87 percent of Michigan’s insurance plans include abortion care in their benefits packages. If private insurers elect to cover abortions, they have to do it as a separate rider, which often ends up being more costly for women.

5) Allow doctors to refuse to perform abortion services because of their personal beliefs. SB 975, which passed the Michigan Senate’s Health Policy committee earlier this week and is now up for a full vote, is a sweeping “license to discriminate” bill that would allow medical professionals to deny health services based on their personal beliefs. It would allow doctors to refuse to provide HIV treatment, vaccinations, or abortions to any of their patients simply based on their “conscience.”

Preliminary reports from women’s health advocates on the ground in Michigan suggest that the Senate has already passed SB 975, and is likely to pass SBs 612, 613, and 614 this afternoon. But Thursday’s push doesn’t represent the only step that Michigan lawmakers have taken during this year’s lame duck session to push through anti-choice legislation. Just a few weeks ago, state legislators also considered establishing a tax credit for fetuses past 12 weeks’ gestation, a dangerous step toward endowing fetuses with the same rights as U.S. citizens.

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