Michigan Governor Whitmer’s Reproductive Health Act Explained

By Right to Life of Michigan

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer

November 4, 2019, Lansing, MI — The bills making up Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Reproductive Health Act (RHA) were introduced into the Legislature on October 31, and Right to Life of Michigan staff have analyzed the changes to Michigan law.

The main bills are identical, SB 622 and HB 5179, and the other bills in the RHA remove sentencing or references to laws it would repeal.

The following are major changes to state law, and scenarios the bills would allow that are based on real events.

Major changes:

  • Repeals Michigan’s complete abortion ban and codifies an unlimited health exception in state law.
  • Creates an unlimited right to abortion, which could have broad implications. Allows women to sue for damages if she believes that right is being restricted in any way.
  • Repeals the partial-birth abortion ban.
  • Nullifies the current petition drive to enact a ban on dismemberment abortions (which amends the partial-birth abortion ban).
  • Allows abortion facilities to be unregulated and never be inspected.
  • Removes parental consent requirements.
  • Removes waiting periods and requirements that abortionists provide women with informed consent and an opportunity to see her ultrasound.
  • Removes mandated screening for abortion coercion.
  • Opens the door for any medical professional to perform a surgical abortion.
  • Stops local governments and schools from regulating abortion in any way, including through zoning laws.

Scenarios:

  • A woman who is 30-weeks pregnant decides to have an abortion after her boyfriend abandons her. Her relationship situation qualifies as a “health” exception. Rather than completing the birth to allow the viable child a chance to survive, the child is stabbed in the head during the process of birth and her brains are suctioned out.
  • A fire marshal is called after receiving an anonymous report about the poor conditions of an uninspected surgical abortion facility. The facility has water damage, rusty surgical equipment, blood spatters on walls, and garbage lying around. The fire marshal decides to let it remain open because he exposes himself to a lawsuit if he tries to close it.
  • A 16-year old pregnant girl walks to the abortion facility located across the street from her school. She is given no informed consent materials, forbidden from seeing the ultrasound of her baby when she asks for it, and her surgical abortion is completed during the school day. Her parents never find out. The school can’t discipline her for skipping school because of her unlimited right to abortion.
  • A sex trafficker takes his pregnant 13-year old victim to an abortion facility, no questions are asked, no medical professional is present, and the victim is sent home with her sex trafficker and abortion pills prescribed by a nurse via Skype.
  • A college athlete becomes pregnant. Her coach demands she have an abortion, threatening to pull her scholarship. The athlete doesn’t want an abortion, but she knows she has no legal recourse to address her coach’s coercion. The abortion facility staff rushes to get her into the procedure room before she changes her mind.

Other changes worth noting:

  • Doesn’t repeal the ban on Medicaid-funded abortions (as we speculated in our October 29 press release). However, creating an unlimited right to abortion in state law could potentially impact it.
  • An unlimited right to abortion and allowing women to sue for damages could broadly impact conscience protections for healthcare workers.
  • Repeals the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act, allowing for insurance plans to have abortion coverage as a required benefit.
  • Redefines fetal viability from the point a child can survive outside the womb to when a child can survive without “extraordinary” care. “Extraordinary” is undefined and could include common situations like a child sent to a neonatal intensive care unit. This ominous change could have implications for how disabled children and children who survive botched abortions are treated.
  • Defines pregnancy in law at the point when the child implants in the womb, not when the child is conceived.