Michigan Doctors, Reproductive Health Advocates Blast Latest Assault on Women as the Worst in State History

June 07, 2012

LANSING, Mich. – In an effort to protect women’s health care in Michigan, doctors, health care professionals and reproductive rights advocates denounced a package of bills today that would effectively make safe abortion services inaccessible in the state. The Michigan House Health Policy Committee passed the package earlier today despite the testimony of health care professionals against the legislation.

“This far-reaching legislation represents the biggest assault on women’s health care in Michigan’s history,” said Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director. “It endangers nearly all areas of reproductive health care by targeting doctors and centers in the hopes of putting abortion providers out of business. Deciding whether and when to become a parent is one of the most private and important decisions a person can make – a decision that should not include politicians.”

House Bill 5711, a 45-page omnibus bill, which regulates nearly all aspects of reproductive health services, would impose unnecessary and burdensome guidelines on health centers making it difficult for them to keep their doors open. In addition, the legislation targets physicians that provide abortion services by prohibiting the use of medically necessary and safe procedures, forcing them to meet excessive standards and forcing them to acquire expensive liability insurance. The companion bills, HB 5712 and HB 5713 establish criminal sentencing guidelines and penalties.

“These bills throw road blocks up that violate accepted obstetric practices, interfere with the doctor-patient relationship and are simply dangerous to women’s health,” said Dr. Timothy Johnson, chair of the University of Michigan Obstetrics and Gynecology Department. “Doctors, not politicians, should decide how to best treat and protect women’s health care. Forty years ago, the lack of access to safe abortions forced women into dangerous, degrading and sometimes fatal scenarios. We can’t go back to that time.”

One proposal within the bills would ban abortions performed after 20 weeks. This ban is out of line with nationally accepted standards of medical care, as an ultrasound to detect abnormalities, including abnormalities incompatible with life, cannot be performed before 18 weeks at the earliest. In addition, this ban contains only a narrow life exception, and no exception at all to preserve the woman’s health, no matter how serious the threat may be.

These bills would also criminalize a doctor who prescribes methotrexate to treat an ectopic pregnancy, even though that is the standard of care for many women. This ban would force these women to undergo completely unnecessary surgeries instead.

Another proposal forces doctors to act as detectives and investigate the women who seek their care for signs of coercion and abuse despite the fact that it is already illegal to threaten or force someone to undergo a medical procedure against his or her own will. While the proposal criminalizes coercing a woman into having an abortion, it does nothing to prevent women from being forced to carry a pregnancy to term.

“The truth is that this package will not prevent a single unintended pregnancy and will undermine the health of many women,” said Meghan Groen, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan director of government relations. “Our elected officials should stop playing politics with women’s health and instead pursue common-sense polices that are proven to work – improved access to family planning and prenatal health care, expanded insurance coverage of contraceptives, and abstinence plus education for our young people.”

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