In 2022, Michigan voted to pass Proposal 3, a ballot measure that enshrined the right to abortion into the state constitution. But, the fight for abortion access did not end there.
Since the passing, and subsequent overturning, of Roe v. Wade, opponents of abortion in Michigan have implemented legislation that made the right to abortion harder to access. These targeted regulations of abortion providers, or TRAP laws, made abortion access inconsistent across the state.
In an attempt to repeal these regulations from Michigan law, 11 bills have been introduced to the Michigan House of Representatives. The package of bills are known collectively as the Reproductive Health Act. Originally introduced to the House by Speaker Pro Tempore Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) in 2021, the Reproductive Health Act has seen multiple sessions of the Legislature. The version currently on the voting floor would repeal several variations of TRAP laws.
“[TRAP laws] are laws that are meant to restrict access to abortion, but are only applicable to abortion, no other type of healthcare in the state,” Pohutsky said.
One way that abortion access is regulated by these laws is regarding the facility in which it is performed. Specific and costly facility requirements can set back potential clinics and providers, especially in rural and medically underserved communities.
“It requires that facilities that provide procedural abortion meet extremely high cost requirements … that have no impact on the patient’s safety, but do drive up the cost of opening a health center by millions of dollars,” said Ashlea Phenicie, vice president of Communications for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan.
A 2018 study authored by three doctors published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that the type of facility in which an abortion procedure was performed, “was not associated with a significant difference in abortion-related morbidities and adverse events.”
A key aspect of the Reproductive Health Act is enshrining the reproductive rights of all people in Michigan. If passed, House Bill 4949 would affirm patient’s reproductive rights, as outlined in the state constitution, defined as “the right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy, including, but not limited to, prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care.”
At its core, the Reproductive Health Act combats misinformation. Current laws are rooted in medical inaccuracy and place unnecessary restrictions on a vital form of healthcare.
“Anti-abortion advocates are spreading a lot of disinformation,” Phenicie said. “They are trying to pretend that the Reproductive Health Act would make that [abortion] care unsafe. It is deeply disappointing that the anti-abortion crowd is pretending to care about patients that, in actuality, they would seek to criminalize if they could.”
A poll conducted by an independent research company in August 2023 showed that a majority of Michigan voters across major demographics supported the Reproductive Health Act.
“Abortion care is healthcare,” said Jimmie Wilson, Jr., state representative (D-Ypsilanti). “No matter what your thoughts are on the procedure itself … [the] government has to stop trying to get in the way of what decisions people want to make with their bodies.”
In the time since Roe v. Wade was overturned, Michigan has seen an increase in the number of abortions performed in the state. According to the Society of Family Planning’s April 2023 report, almost 2,500 more abortions were provided in Michigan in the six months after the Dobbs v. Jackson decision.
As Michigan has shown it is a state that prioritizes reproductive rights, more and more people are receiving abortion care here. But, without the Reproductive Health Act, abortion care is not consistent across the state.
“[Abortion] is now a right enshrined in our constitution, and if it’s not accessible, then we can’t actually say that it’s a right for everybody,” Pohutsky said.
It is important for supporters of the Reproductive Health Act to speak up, especially young people.
“If there are members of the legislature who are not supporting something that students do support, they need to show up and make sure their voices are heard,” Pohutsky said. “I think it is all too easy to write off younger people and, in particular, students.”