Michiganders sent an emphatic message last November when the majority of voters approved Proposal 3, enshrining reproductive freedom, including the right to abortion, in the state constitution. It was a history-making victory. With anti-abortion laws still on our books, we now need the Michigan State Legislature to finish the job the voters started.
Abortion is a constitutionally protected right in Michigan, but the fact is that access is not a reality for far too many in our state. Anti-abortion politicians spent decades passing medically unnecessary, politically motivated laws designed to push abortion out of reach. These laws only exacerbate the current disparities within the healthcare system experienced by Black and brown people, rural residents, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, people with low incomes and young people.
One appalling result of extreme laws: North of Saginaw, there are no clinics that offer procedural abortion. As a result, patients who live in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula need to travel for hours to seek abortion services if they are not eligible for a medication abortion. To point to one example — a woman from Houghton who needs a procedural abortion faces a seven-and-a-half-hour drive from the UP to the nearest clinic offering this service.
Now, the Michigan Legislature must repeal these restrictive, unconstitutional laws that create barriers to abortion access and do not allow Michiganders to realize the full potential of Proposal 3 — which is intended to ensure reproductive health care is affordable and available for everyone in Michigan.
For starters, the state Legislature must repeal what are known as “targeted restrictions on abortion providers,” or TRAP laws. These restrictions are designed to shut down abortion providers by imposing costly and medically unnecessary regulations dictating everything from the width of hallways, to the ceiling height, to the number of bathrooms available. They prevent providers from expanding care into new communities. These laws have nothing to do with safe medical care and everything to do with politics.
Similarly, the Legislature must repeal laws that prohibit qualified clinicians such as physician’s assistants and certified nurse practitioners to provide this very safe and routine procedure, limiting abortion access in medically underserved communities. Medical experts and state licensing boards — not politicians in Lansing — should determine who can provide medical care safely, based on medical expertise and strict standards of care.
And while pregnancy-related care is covered by Medicaid, abortion is not. State law also prohibits your private insurance plan from covering it unless you purchase separate abortion coverage. This is both punitive and cruel. It burdens many people with exorbitant healthcare bills or denies them access to this care altogether. We must remove these laws from the books because abortion access should not depend on how much money a person makes.
To remove the burdens placed on young people who need access to reproductive health care, we must repeal Michigan’s outdated parental consent law. Most young people turn to their parents when they are pregnant. But not all young people can, often for reasons rooted in their own safety and well-being, loss of financial support, homelessness or other repercussions. Not all children have safe guardians, and legislation cannot mandate family communication. Consent laws, like the parental consent law in Michigan, harm young people, and are opposed by the American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Society for Adolescent Medicine. As stated by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Pediatric health clinicians should encourage adolescents to engage their parents/caregivers or a trusted adult in their decision-making around pregnancy and abortion; however, if adolescents choose not to do so, their decision should be respected.”
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned nearly 50 years’ worth of legal protections under Roe v. Wade, anti-abortion politicians and extremists are ramping up efforts to ban abortion in every state. Their most recent attack is a legal battle to end nationwide access to mifepristone, an FDA-approved abortion pill safely used in most abortions. If the courts agree with the anti-abortion plaintiffs, the medication could become largely unavailable in Michigan. Because of the TRAP laws that remain on the books here, our state does not have enough clinics to meet the need that would arise if all patients needed procedural abortions.
Fortunately, here in Michigan, we have both public opinion and momentum on our side. Along with a majority of voters approving the passage of Proposal 3, polling shows that Michigan voters support abortion access in higher numbers than the national average, with 66% of Michiganders believing that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
Now is the time for our legislators to make this issue top priority — and do what the people elected them to do: Ensure abortion is not only legal, but actually accessible and affordable to everyone.
Paula Thornton-Greear is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Michigan. Sommer Foster is executive director of Michigan Voices. Loren Khogali is executive director of the ACLU of Michigan.