In her ‘What’s Next’ address last week, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said one of her top legislative priorities is the passage of the Reproductive Health Act. The bill, if passed, would expand access to abortion care across Michigan.
The Reproductive Health Act, or House Bill 5542, was first introduced by State House Rep. Laurie Pohutskly (D-Livonia) on Nov. 11, 2021. Pohutskly said that this is the third time that Democrats have attempted to pass the bill.
According to Pohutskly, the Reproductive Health act repeals ‘TRAP,’ or targeted regulation of abortion providers, laws that limit access to abortion care put into place after Roe v. Wade.
“Things like the 24-hour mandatory waiting period and really onerous building requirements on any facility that is used to perform abortions,” Pohutskly said. “Things like that that have no basis in actual medicine.”
Some of these regulations include specific hallway and ceiling measurements, H-VAC system, location requirements and mandatory reporting of the abortion to the state government, according to Pohutskly.
Those who seek abortions must wait the 24-hour waiting period. The Reproductive Health Act, if passed, would eliminate this barrier.
“We have people who are having to drive hundreds of miles to access abortion care, we have people who are having to take multiple days off of work because of this mandatory 24-hour waiting period, which really flies in the face of the standard of care that's already in place for abortion and annulment procedures,” Pohutskly said.
The Reproductive Health Act also allows for Medicaid to cover all pregnancy-related expenses, including abortion, further expanding accessibility to abortion.
Planned Parenthood Generative Action at Michigan State has been “key in getting the act introduced in the legislature” by advocating for the Reproductive Health Act since its roots, according to President and chemistry education senior Rylee Warner.
“This is something that's going to make abortion access easier in Michigan, and for people who face more extreme barriers than others,” Warner said. “It's something that we really support and really want to advocate for.”
PPGA Secretary and social relations and policy, comparative cultures and politics and Women's and Gender Studies major Mackenzie Lovell said that one of PPGA’s current missions is to educate people about the Reproductive Health Act. She said that the current ‘TRAP’ laws in place are “very unnecessary and costly to abortion providers.”
The question of the validity of the regulations in place has sparked controversy among the pro-life and pro-choice student groups at Michigan State.
Political theory and constitutional democracy and international relations sophomore and member of Protect Life MSU Gabriel Weichert said that the current regulations in place on abortion facilities are necessary.
“I believe it is dangerous for women. One of the things it does is it removes the requirement for abortion facilities to be at the same level of like medical grade as a surgical facility,” Weichert said. “I think we should hold all sorts of medical procedures to that same standard.”
Lovell said that out of the 14 abortion clinics in Michigan, three provide surgical abortions, and all are held to the same regulatory surgical standards.
Weichert said that he believes the 24-hour waiting period is necessary in order to practice informed consent. Informed consent in regard to abortion is defined as “understandable, accurate and unbiased information about abortion services” by the Center for Reproductive Rights.
“With anything in medicine, informed consent is extremely important,” Weichert said. “I also think it's dangerous that the act proposes removing the 24-hour waiting period for an abortion, because I believe that removes the opportunity for someone to think about what they're doing and get informed consent.”
A poll conducted in electorally competitive legislative districts in August demonstrated that 46% of Michigan voters “strongly support” the passage of the Reproductive Health Act. 36% “strongly oppose” the bill.
Rep. Pohutsky said that she predicts that the Reproductive Health Act will pass along party lines.
“There are a lot of places in our state where abortion is not accessible, which means that this right isn't truly a right for everybody,” Rep. Pohutsky said. “That's why it's so important to pass the RHA.”