December 7, 2012 — Michigan lawmakers are attempting to pass a package of bills that would impose several new restrictions on women's access to abortion care and coverage during their lame-duck session, the Huffington Post reports.
Senators on Thursday approved three bills (SB 612, SB 613, SB 614) that would prohibit all health plans, including those sold through the state-based health insurance exchange, from covering abortion unless a woman would die without the procedure. The measures do not include exceptions for rape, incest or pregnancy complications that pose a threat to a woman's health. Private insurers would be permitted to offer a separate abortion coverage policy that women would need to purchase in addition to regular coverage.
Conservatives said the measures would prevent taxpayer dollars from going toward a procedure that some people find morally objectionable.
Reproductive rights advocates counter that the bills are unreasonable, because insurance companies are unlikely to offer separate abortion coverage (Bassett, Huffington Post, 12/6).
Meghan Groen, director of government relations for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, said that abortion is "part of the [standard] of care in Michigan right now" and is "covered by almost all plans" (Meyer, Detroit Free Press, 12/6). However, "No insurance company currently offers a rider for abortion coverage, and no woman is going to purchase a separate rider for something she hasn't planned," she added.
State senators on Thursday also voted 26-12 to approve a bill that would allow health care providers to refuse to provide or pay for medical services, including birth control and abortion, to which they object. Conservatives argue that the bill protects religious liberty (Huffington Post, 12/6).
However, state Sen. Roger Kahn -- a doctor and the only Republican to join most Democrats in voting against the bill -- said the measure would open the door to a refusal of service for myriad ailments. He added that it should not be up to health care providers to deny services based on their personal beliefs.
The House is expected to consider the legislation next week (Gray/Erb, Detroit Free Press, 12/7).
Meanwhile, state House lawmakers also are expected to advance an omnibus bill (HB 5711) that could effectively shut down some clinics in the state by increasing regulations. The measure would require abortion clinics to meet the same building standards as surgical centers, including minimum doorway sizes and minimum square footage.
In addition, the omnibus bill includes a ban on abortion care via telemedicine, which is widely used by women in rural and medically underserved areas of the state. According to PPAM's Groen, 21 out of 83 Michigan counties lack a local ob-gyn, and banning telemedicine abortion would make it difficult for women in these areas to receive care (Huffington Post, 12/6).
Repro Health Watch — an exciting new edition of the Women’s Health Policy Report — compiles and distributes media coverage of proposed and enacted state laws and ballot initiatives affecting women's access to comprehensive reproductive health care, as well as litigation in response to those provisions.