Analysis Abortion

In Michigan, A Long List of Bills Attacking Reproductive Freedom

Angi Becker Stevens

Over a dozen pieces of proposed extreme anti-choice legislation are currently at various stages of being passed into Michigan law. From personhood to ultrasounds, fetal pain bills to provider regulations, the proposed legislation in Michigan seems to represent every variety of anti-choice tactic we’ve witnessed in state legislations across the country in recent months.

Several conservative states—such as Oklahoma and Texas—have repeatedly drawn attention for the proliferation of anti-choice laws proposed and passed by their legislatures in the past year. But as the GOP’s war on women continues to grow nationwide, legislatures even in states not traditionally considered to be extremely conservative are taking steps to severely restrict reproductive freedom.

Michigan has already received a failing grade on its choice-related laws from NARAL, and yet the current dismal state of access to abortion in Michigan is nothing compared to what could soon become in reality. This legislative season, the legislature has already passed a redundant ban on non-existent (and already federally “banned”) “partial birth abortions.” But over a dozen more pieces of proposed extreme anti-choice legislation are currently at various stages of being passed into law. From personhood to ultrasounds, fetal pain bills to provider regulations, the proposed legislation in Michigan seems to represent every variety of anti-choice tactic we’ve witnessed in state legislatures across the country in recent months. 

A comprehensive picture of the threat to reproductive rights in Michigan yields an unfortunately lengthy list of currently-proposed laws and regulations and a striking view of how very dire is the situation for reproductive health and rights in the state.

Fetal Personhood: We’ve seen the push for “personhood”-–the conferring of the full rights of a living human being on a fertilized egg–—in several states recently, often in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment. The personhood bill in Michigan would alter all state legal code to include “fetus” as part of the definition of “an individual.” Personhood laws have serious implications for the legality of abortion, since altering the definition of “an individual” to include “a fetus” would render all abortions after the 11th week of pregnancy (when the fetal stage begins) potentially prosecutable as murder . This bill has been referred to the committee on judiciary, but has not gone further since its introduction early last year.

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Stricter regulations for the disposal of fetal remains: This bill falls into a category of anti-choice legislation that appears fairly innocuous, but is frequently used to impose excessively burdensome regulations on abortion providers, increasing the chances that clinics will be fined or shut down completely. Sometimes known by the acronym “TRAP” (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers), such regulations have become a common anti-choice tactic. This bill would mandate that all fetal remains be disposed of according to the same regulations governing the disposal of dead bodies: they must be buried, cremated, or interred. There is also concern that the bill could have implications for women experiencing miscarriages, as it does not specify that only medical staff would be responsible for the proper disposal of fetal remains. This bill has successfully passed through the senate with recommendation for immediate effect; the accompanying sentencing guidelines have been referred to the committee on judiciary.

Strengthening of parental notification laws: Michigan already counts itself among the states where abortion is illegal for minors without parental consent, unless a young woman successfully petitions the court to grant a waiver of the consent requirement. The bill currently up for consideration in the state senate would remove the right of young women to seek a waiver through a different division of family court in cases where one division has previously denied granting a waiver, thereby further restricting the one course of action available to young women in a desperate situation. This bill has passed favorably out of committee without amendment, and has been recommended for immediate effect. It awaits a decision from the senate committee of the whole.

Ultrasound requirement: Michigan’s proposed ultrasound bill would require all abortion-seeking women to undergo an ultrasound a minimum of two hours prior to beginning an abortion procedure. The law, if passed, would mandate that a woman receive an ultrasound on the most technologically-advanced equipment available, in order to give the clearest image. In very early pregnancy, this would likely mean a trans-vaginal ultrasound. In later stages, it could often mean the far more detailed 3D ultrasounds that have become more widely available in recent years. Though the bill claims that a woman must be given the option to view the image, it also requires that the monitor be turned in her direction, so that the only way to exercise her “option” to not view the image is to turn her head or close her eyes. This bill has not progressed since its introduction in March of last year. 

Regulations on the prescription of medical abortion: This bill would prohibit the prescription of medical abortion without a physical examination. Particularly for women in rural areas—of which there are plenty in the state of Michigan—this regulation could severely affect the ability to obtain an abortion. There is no medical indication for banning the practice of tele-medicine for abortion; on the contrary, research has found telemedicine for the prescription of medical abortion to be safe and effective. This bill was introduced in June, and has been referred to the committee on health policy.

Requirement for abortions post-19 weeks to take place in facilities with neonatal units: This bill aims to further the reach of Michigan’s “Born Alive Infant Protection Act” (passed into law in 2002) by requiring all abortions post-19 weeks  to take be carried out in facilities with neonatal units in order to potentially save the life of an infant born after an abortion procedure. This regulation would greatly limit the availability of late abortion—which virtually always occurs for reasons of serious medical necessity. Often, women seeking abortion at this stage in pregnancy are doing so after the discovery of severe birth defects; for women in this difficult situation, limiting the availability of late-term abortion only serves to make an already painful experience even more challenging. This bill was introduced in June, and has not yet progressed.

Insurance restrictions: Several bills have been introduced for the purpose of prohibiting state-provided health insurance from covering abortion procedures, thereby denying any possible abortion coverage for state public employees. The bills state that abortion coverage may be provided if purchased separately as an additional rider. Beyond the obvious problem of passing that out-of-pocket expense on to (often underpaid) woman workers, the reality is that no such “abortion riders” even currently exist. This package of bills passed favorably out of the committee on health policy in December, and has been recommended for immediate effect.

Liability insurance for abortion providers: This bill would strengthen the requirements for liability insurance for abortion providers, making it more difficult and costly for physicians to continue providing abortions to their patients. This bill was introduced in December and has been referred to the committee on insurance.

Prohibition of coercive abortion: This bill would make it a crime to coerce a woman to have an abortion against her will, and could target—among others—any spouse, partner (or parent of a minor) who encouraged a woman to seek an abortion (though it is perfectly legal to coerce a woman not to have an abortion). In the time since I last wrote about the anti-coercion bill, additional accompanying bills have been introduced. One creates a requirement for the state to produce and distribute literature explaining coercion to all abortion-seeking women. Another would require all women to go through an “oral-screening” before obtaining an abortion in order to identify the presence of possible coercion. If it was determined that there was reason to suspect coercion, the woman would be forced to go through an additional 24-hour waiting period prior to obtaining an abortion. Much like the claims that ultrasound regulations are about protecting “informed consent,” the anti-coercion bill is hypocritically touted as attempting to “protect” women. This notion of “protection” is rendered even more patronizing by the further screening requirement that would deny a woman the right to even decide for herself whether she had been coerced. Before the recent House vote on this package of bills, some legislators highlighted the hypocrisy by proposing amendments that would also make it illegal to coerce a woman into continuing a pregnancy. The amendments were rejected; the bills passed easily in the House on Tuesday by a vote of 72-37.

Removal of state funding for abortion-providing facilities: In a move reminiscent of last-year’s threatened federal de-funding of Planned Parenthood, this recently introduced bill would deny all state funds and contracts to any facility or organization that provides abortion. It is difficult to imagine that many large-scale medical facilities could afford to sacrifice their eligibility for any and all state money. Smaller women’s health clinics that are determined to continue providing abortion services would be dramatically affected by the loss of all state grant eligibility, and it is not at all unreasonable to fear that many would be forced to close. This bill alone has the potential to greatly decrease the availability of safe and legal abortion in the state of Michigan. This bill was introduced in January, and has not yet progressed through the system.

“Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act:” Similar to other “fetal pain bills” which have been proposed and passed recently in other states, this bill would outlaw all abortion after 20 weeks. The only exception in the bill is for cases in which death—but not severe non-fatal health consequences—would likely result if the pregnancy were to continue. The bill even goes so far as to callously specify that a woman’s threatened suicide does not qualify as a risk to her life, and leaves no room even for mental health professionals to make a call as to whether a pregnant woman is in fact in danger of suicide. This bill was only recently introduced, and has not yet moved forward.

As problematic as any one of these bills is on its own, it is even more frightening to consider the many intersections between them. For example, imagine that both the laws denying state funding to abortion providers and the requirement that all abortions after 19 weeks occur in facilities with neonatal units were enacted. All medical facilities large enough to maintain neonatal units would likely be too dependent on state funding to continue providing abortions, and so any abortions required after 19 weeks would become extremely difficult to obtain, forcing women to leave the state (and incur additional travel expenses) or resort to attempts at self-inducing abortion. If the ban on post-20-week abortions becomes law at the same time as other restrictions—such as the ban on long-distance prescription of medical abortion—an increasing number of women are likely to find themselves unable to jump through the necessary hoops to obtain an abortion before it’s too late. Or, consider the clear hypocrisy of a state passing a law to “protect” a woman from coercion while simultaneously passing a law forcing her to undergo invasive ultrasound procedures in an attempt to dissuade her from going through with an abortion.

To make matters even grimmer, Michigan’s governor and legislature are strongly anti-choice; so the unfortunate reality is that any and all of these bills have a strong chance of passing. If there is any hope of saving some semblance of reproductive freedom in Michigan, it is urgent for the people of the state to send a strong and clear message to the politicians that this kind of anti-woman legislation will simply not be tolerated.

The full text of these—and other—bills can be viewed at http://www.legislature.mi.gov


Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Republican National Convention Edition

Ally Boguhn

The Trump family's RNC claims about crime and the presidential candidate's record on gender equality have kept fact-checkers busy.

Republicans came together in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC), generating days of cringe-inducing falsehoods and misleading statements on crime, the nominee’s positions on gender equality, and LGBTQ people.

Trump’s Acceptance Speech Blasted for Making False Claims on Crime

Trump accepted the Republican nomination in a Thursday night speech at the RNC that drew harsh criticism for many of its misleading and outright false talking points.

Numerous fact-checkers took Trump to task, calling out many of his claims for being “wrong,” and “inflated or misleading.”

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 Among the most hotly contested of Trump’s claims was the assertion that crime has exploded across the country.

“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,” Trump claimed, according to his prepared remarks, which were leaked ahead of his address. “Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.”

Crime rates overall have been steadily declining for years.

“In 2015, there was an uptick in homicides in 36 of the 50 largest cities compared to the previous years. The rate did, indeed, increase nearly 17 percent, and it was the worst annual change since 1990. The homicide rate was up 54.3 percent in Washington, and 58.5 percent in Baltimore,” explained Washington Post fact checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee. “But in the first months of 2016, homicide trends were about evenly split in the major cities. Out of 63 agencies reporting to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, 32 cities saw a decrease in homicides in first quarter 2016 and 31 saw an increase.”

Ames Grawert, a counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said in a statement posted to the organization’s website that 2016 statistics aren’t sufficient in declaring crime rate trends. 

“Overall, crime rates remain at historic lows. Fear-inducing soundbites are counterproductive, and distract from nuanced, data-driven, and solution-oriented conversations on how to build a smarter criminal justice system in America,” Grawert said. “It’s true that some cities saw an increase in murder rates last year, and that can’t be ignored, but it’s too early to say if that’s part of a national trend.” 

When Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, was confronted with the common Republican falsehoods on crime during a Thursday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, he claimed that the FBI’s statistics were not to be trusted given that the organization recently advised against charges in connection with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

“According to FBI statistics, crime rates have been going down for decades,” Tapper told Manafort. “How can Republicans make the argument that it’s somehow more dangerous today when the facts don’t back that up?”

“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods,” said Manafort, going on to claim that “the FBI is certainly suspect these days after what they did with Hillary Clinton.”

There was at least one notable figure who wholeheartedly embraced Trump’s fearmongering: former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. “Great Trump Speech,” tweeted Duke on Thursday evening. “Couldn’t have said it better!”

Ben Carson Claims Transgender People Are Proof of “How Absurd We Have Become”

Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson criticized the existence of transgender people while speaking at the Florida delegation breakfast on Tuesday in Cleveland.  

“You know, we look at this whole transgender thing, I’ve got to tell you: For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is. And now, all of a sudden we don’t know anymore,” said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon. “Now, is that the height of absurdity? Because today you feel like a woman, even though everything about you genetically says that you’re a man or vice versa?”

“Wouldn’t that be the same as if you woke up tomorrow morning after seeing a movie about Afghanistan or reading some books and said, ‘You know what? I’m Afghanistan. Look, I know I don’t look that way. My ancestors came from Sweden, or something, I don’t know. But I really am. And if you say I’m not, you’re a racist,’” Carson said. “This is how absurd we have become.”

When confronted with his comments during an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric, Carson doubled down on his claims.“There are biological markers that tell us whether we are a male or a female,” said Carson. “And just because you wake up one day and you say, ‘I think I’m the other one,’ that doesn’t change it. Just, a leopard can’t change its spots.”

“It’s not as if they woke up one day and decided, ‘I’m going to be a male or I’m going to be a female,’” Couric countered, pointing out that transgender people do not suddenly choose to change their gender identities on a whim.

Carson made several similar comments last year while on the campaign trail.

In December, Carson criticized the suggested that allowing transgender people into the military amounted to using the armed services “as a laboratory for social experimentation.”

Carson once suggested that allowing transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their gender identity amounted to granting them “extra rights.”

Ivanka Trump Claims Her Father Supports Equal Pay, Access to Child Care

Ivanka Trump, the nominee’s daughter, made a pitch during her speech Thursday night at the RNC for why women voters should support her father.

“There have always been men of all background and ethnicities on my father’s job sites. And long before it was commonplace, you also saw women,” Ivanka Trump said. “At my father’s company, there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.” 

“As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all,” she continued before pivoting to address the gender wage gap. 

“Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

However, Trump’s stated positions on the gender wage gap, pregnancy and mothers in the workplace, and child care don’t quite add up to the picture the Trumps tried to paint at the RNC.

In 2004, Trump called pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers. When a lawyer asked for a break during a deposition in 2011 to pump breast milk, Trump reportedly called her “disgusting.”

According to a June analysis conducted by the Boston Globe, the Trump campaign found that men who worked on Trump’s campaign “made nearly $6,100, or about 35 percent more [than women during the April payroll]. The disparity is slightly greater than the gender pay gap nationally.”

A former organizer for Trump also filed a discrimination complaint in January, alleging that she was paid less than her male counterparts.

When Trump was questioned about equal pay during a campaign stop last October, he did not outline his support for policies to address the issue. Instead, Trump suggested that, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Though he had previously stated that men and women who do the same job should be paid the same during an August 2015 interview on MSNBC, he also cautioned that determining whether people were doing the same jobs was “tricky.”

Trump has been all but completely silent on child care so far on the campaign trail. In contrast, Clinton released an agenda in May to address the soaring costs of child care in the United States.

Ivanka’s claims were not the only attempt that night by Trump’s inner circle to explain why women voters should turn to the Republican ticket. During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Manafort said that women would vote for the Republican nominee because they “can’t afford their lives anymore.”

“Many women in this country feel they can’t afford their lives, their husbands can’t afford to be paying for the family bills,” claimed Manafort. “Hillary Clinton is guilty of being part of the establishment that created that problem. They’re going to hear the message. And as they hear the message, that’s how we are going to appeal to them.”

What Else We’re Reading

Vox’s Dara Lind explained how “Trump’s RNC speech turned his white supporters’ fear into a weapon.”

Now that Mike Pence is the Republican nominee for vice president, Indiana Republicans have faced “an intense, chaotic, awkward week of brazen lobbying at the breakfast buffet, in the hallways and on the elevators” at the convention as they grapple with who will run to replace the state’s governor, according to the New York Times.

“This is a party and a power structure that feels threatened with extinction, willing to do anything for survival,” wrote Rebecca Traister on Trump and the RNC for New York Magazine. “They may not love Trump, but he is leading them precisely because he embodies their grotesque dreams of the restoration of white, patriarchal power.”

Though Trump spent much of the primary season denouncing big money in politics, while at the RNC, he courted billionaires in hopes of having them donate to supporting super PACs.

Michael Kranish reported for the Washington Post that of the 2,472 delegates at the RNC, it is estimated that only 18 were Black.

Cosmopolitan highlighted nine of the most sexist things that could be found at the convention.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asked, “Where are these contributions that have been made” by people of color to civilization?

News Abortion

Reproductive Justice Groups Hit Back at RNC’s Anti-Choice Platform

Michelle D. Anderson

Reproductive rights and justice groups are greeting the Republican National Convention with billboards and media campaigns that challenge anti-choice policies.

Reproductive advocacy groups have moved to counter negative images that will be displayed this week during the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, while educating the public about anti-choice legislation that has eroded abortion care access nationwide.

Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee for president, along with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), Trump’s choice for vice president, have supported a slew of anti-choice policies.

The National Institute for Reproductive Health is among the many groups bringing attention to the Republican Party’s anti-abortion platform. The New York City-based nonprofit organization this month erected six billboards near RNC headquarters and around downtown Cleveland hotels with the message, “If abortion is made illegal, how much time will a person serve?”

The institute’s campaign comes as Created Equal, an anti-abortion organization based in Columbus, Ohio, released its plans to use aerial advertising. The group’s plan was first reported by The Stream, a conservative Christian website.

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The site reported that the anti-choice banners would span 50 feet by 100 feet and seek to “pressure congressional Republicans into defunding Planned Parenthood.” Those plans were scrapped after the Federal Aviation Administration created a no-fly zone around both parties’ conventions.

Created Equal, which was banned from using similar messages on a large public monitor near the popular Alamo historic site in San Antonio, Texas, in 2014, did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, said in an interview with Rewire that Created Equal’s stance and tactics on abortion show how “dramatically out of touch” its leaders compared to where most of the public stands on reproductive rights. Last year, a Gallup poll suggested half of Americans supported a person’s right to have an abortion, while 44 percent considered themselves “pro-life.”

About 56 percent of U.S. adults believe abortion care should be legal all or most of the time, according to the Pew Research Center’s FactTank.

“It’s important to raise awareness about what the RNC platform has historically endorsed and what they have continued to endorse,” Miller told Rewire.

Miller noted that more than a dozen women, like Purvi Patel of Indiana, have been arrested or convicted of alleged self-induced abortion since 2004. The billboards, she said, help convey what might happen if the Republican Party platform becomes law across the country.

Miller said the National Institute for Reproductive Health’s campaign had been in the works for several months before Created Equal announced its now-cancelled aerial advertising plans. Although the group was not aware of Created Equal’s plans, staff anticipated that intimidating messages seeking to shame and stigmatize people would be used during the GOP convention, Miller said.

The institute, in a statement about its billboard campaign, noted that many are unaware of “both the number of anti-choice laws that have passed and their real-life consequences.” The group unveiled an in-depth analysis looking at how the RNC platform “has consistently sought to make abortion both illegal and inaccessible” over the last 30 years.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio last week began an online newspaper campaign that placed messages in the Cleveland Plain Dealer via Cleveland.com, the Columbus Dispatch, and the Dayton Daily News, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio spokesman Gabriel Mann told Rewire.

The ads address actions carried out by Created Equal by asking, “When Did The Right To Life Become The Right To Terrorize Ohio Abortion Providers?”

“We’re looking to expose how bad [Created Equal has] been in these specific media markets in Ohio. Created Equal has targeted doctors outside their homes,” Mann said. “It’s been a very aggressive campaign.”

The NARAL ads direct readers to OhioAbortionFacts.org, an educational website created by NARAL; Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio; the human rights and reproductive justice group, New Voices Cleveland; and Preterm, the only abortion provider located within Cleveland city limits.

The website provides visitors with a chronological look at anti-abortion restrictions that have been passed in Ohio since the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973.

In 2015, for example, Ohio’s Republican-held legislature passed a law requiring all abortion facilities to have a transfer agreement with a non-public hospital within 30 miles of their location. 

Like NARAL and the National Institute for Reproductive Health, Preterm has erected a communications campaign against the RNC platform. In Cleveland, that includes a billboard bearing the message, “End The Silence. End the Shame,” along a major highway near the airport, Miller said.

New Voices has focused its advocacy on combatting anti-choice policies and violence against Black women, especially on social media sites like Twitter.

After the police killing of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Black boy, New Voices collaborated with the Repeal Hyde Art Project to erect billboard signage showing that reproductive justice includes the right to raise children who are protected from police brutality.

Abortion is not the only issue that has become the subject of billboard advertising at the GOP convention.

Kansas-based environmental and LGBTQ rights group Planting Peace erected a billboard depicting Donald Trump kissing his former challenger Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) just minutes from the RNC site, according to the Plain Dealer.

The billboard, which features the message, “Love Trumps Hate. End Homophobia,” calls for an “immediate change in the Republican Party platform with regard to our LGBT family and LGBT rights,” according to news reports.

CORRECTION: A version of this article incorrectly stated the percentage of Americans in favor of abortion rights.