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Pro-choice groups want lingering anti-abortion laws repealed

Protestors for and against legal abortions gathered at The University of Michigan on May 14, 2022.
Jodi Westrick
Michigan Radio
Protestors for and against legal abortions gathered at The University of Michigan on May 14, 2022, before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. (Photo: Jodi Westrick/Michigan Radio)

Abortion rights groups want Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to use a major policy address this week to call for striking lingering abortion laws still on the books.

A Whitmer spokesperson said they will likely get their wish, which would be no surprise from the Democrat who is a fervent abortion rights advocate.

Paula Thornton Greear with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan said repealing statutes dating back decades will align laws with the reproductive rights amendment adopted by voters last year.

Other members of the group include the ACLU of Michigan and the National Abortion Rights Action League.

“I cannot say strongly enough how imperative it is that we clean up Michigan’s lawbooks and that we do so as quickly as possible and passing the reproductive health act this fall is the easiest and most efficient way to get this done,” Greear said during a Zoom press conference with other abortion rights advocates.

They say they’re pushing the Legislature to use its fall session to strip from the books language that bans the use of Medicaid funds for abortions, requires waiting periods and enacts exacting building requirements on abortion facilities.

Supporters say the bills would eliminate any uncertainty about the status of abortion rights in Michigan without having to wait for questions to be resolved in court.

A spokesperson says Planned Parenthood of Michigan says its facilities still comply with state laws adopted pre-Proposal 3 that include 24-hour waiting periods, counseling that includes describing risks and alternatives to abortion, illustrations of fetuses at different stages of development, and requiring all health centers that offer the procedure to be licensed as an outpatient surgical facility.

Planned Parenthood says there are also still barriers to insurance coverage for abortion procedures.

They say those statutes are likely unconstitutional and also sow confusion about abortion rights in Michigan.

They’ll find a receptive audience in Whitmer and the Legislature’s slim Democratic majorities, which have already repealed the state’s 1931 abortion ban following the adoption of Proposal 3.

Wednesday’s address by Whitmer is billed “What’s Next,” and follows the opening months of a session where Democrats pushed through an agenda heavy with long-sought priorities including stricter gun laws, repealing the anti-union right-to-work law, and rolling back taxes on pension income.

Whitmer Press Secretary Stacey LaRouche said reproductive health will likely be part of the speech.

“The governor will deliver her ‘What’s Next Address’ to outline policy priorities for this fall’s legislative agenda and build on work to lower costs, make Michigan more competitive, improve energy efficiency, expand opportunity, and protect people’s fundamental rights,” she said. “She looks forward to sharing more on Wednesday.”

A spokesperson for Right to Life of Michigan dismissed the call for repealing abortion laws as “blind fervor.”

“The proposed removal of common-sense regulations serves the interests of the abortion industry, not women seeking abortions,” said Genevieve Marnon, RTL’s legislative director. “We urge Michigan legislators to keep these long-standing, basic protections for women and girls in place."

The Legislature plans to return to the Capitol next week to begin its fall session.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.