Michigan Senate Passes Massive Anti-Abortion Bill

Michigan’s Senate has just passed HB 5711, the sweeping anti-abortion omnibus, with a few modifications that require it to go back to the House for review. The legislation goes so far as to require screening for patients to ensure that they aren’t being forced to end their pregnancies, places new regulations on how fetal material is disposed of, and requires private offices to be licensed as “freestanding surgical outpatient facilities” if they perform more than 120 abortions per year, according to a story on WXYZ.

This bill drew heavy criticism earlier this year for many things, including its impact on abortion clinics, with critics saying that the regulations contained within the bill, including building requirements such as square footage and door sizes, could force those clinics to shut down, thus seriously reducing women’s access to abortions across the state.

Republican Senator Rick Jones told the press that having licensing and inspection requirements for abortion clinics is not really any different from the requirements stipulated for anything from a dentist’s office to junkyards, casinos and tattoo parlors, and are a necessary step. He went so far as to call the bill a “pro-woman bill.”

Under the legislation, doctors must also perform medical exams before prescribing medication that could induce an abortion, but cannot use web-based cameras to do so, which would hurt women in more rural and underserved areas of Michigan. Contradictory to this is that telemedicine, as this practice is known, has been expanded for other areas of medicine in the state.

Democratic Senator Rebekah Warren introduced several amendments to HB 5711, including one that would neutralize certain language to ensure that a person would face criminal penalties for forcing a woman to carry her baby to term, and another that would require exams for men seeking vasectomies to determine if they are medically necessary. All of these amendments, which required passage by the Republican-controlled Senate, failed.

Supporters of the bill say that this will make women seeking abortions safer, hence Jones’ comment that this is a “pro woman bill.” Opponents say that even with the Senate’s changes, it’s still contradictory, confusing, and full of items that are already covered under other laws that are just not being enforced.

Michigan’s Senate also passed a bill last week that would prohibit the state’s insurance exchanges from offering coverage of abortions, and another that would allow medical professionals and employers to refuse any health treatments they find morally objectionable. These bills, and HB 5711, are anything but “pro-woman.”

Because the Senate made changes to the bill, it must now go back to the House for final approval before heading to Governor Snyder’s desk.