Democrats in Statehouses Aim to Secure Abortion Rights as “Roe” Faces Threats

Michigan’s 90-year-old law that criminalizes abortion is expected to be the subject of a major policy debate in its statehouse next Year. Democrats across the country are trying to secure access to abortion in a more complicated legal and political environment.

As part of a package, Michigan Democrats from both chambers of the legislature introduced the Reproductive Health Bill this week. The legislation, if passed, would repeal a 1931 law making abortion illegal in the state. The statute hasn’t been in effect in decades, after landmark Supreme Court decisions like Roe v. Wade affirmed a person’s right to an abortion. However, a more conservative high Court and upcoming rulings could make abortion access more dependent on individual states.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is a Democrat in September expressed support for repealing the lawby a separate, stand-alone law. The Republican-controlled legislature, however, has not.

“We will not be supporting any such repeal,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said in a statement, according to the Associated Press. “The primary charge of any government or government official is to protect the life of the innocent. Michigan Senate Republicans will not waver from this fundamental duty to protect the sanctity of life.”

The main bill would not only repeal the state’s abortion criminalization law, but also remove regulations that require facilities that provide abortions to be licensed as freestanding surgical outpatient facilities. The legislation would also lift Michigan’s mandated 24-hour waiting period for an abortion and lift a ban on private insurance coverage for abortions.

“We trust that the best person to make the right decision about their reproductive health care is that person and their doctor,” House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski said during a press conference on Wednesday. “We must continue to fight and protect personal health care choice.”

Sarah Wallett from Planned Parenthood of Michigan joined the news conference and described the effects of existing state statutes for patients who come to her. She said that many face hardships when they have to travel long distances, arrange child care, and pay excessive costs.

“The state of abortion access in Michigan is already dire, especially for our most marginalized communities,” Wallett said. “We have decades of abortion restrictions on the books that serve no medical or public health purpose. They are only intended to make life more difficult for Michiganders seeking abortion. And it’s only getting worse.”

The 1931 law in particular could create a hodgepodge of rules in Michigan, warned Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, chair of the Michigan Progressive Women’s Caucus that helped introduce the legislation. She said that the lawAs written, a contradictory language is used. It would be a crime to supply drugs or instruments that cause miscarriage. A second section states that anyone selling drugs for abortion is guilty of a misdemeanor. Additional language suggests that such drugs can be sold via prescription.

Attorney General Dana Nessel (Democrat), is the author has said that she would not prosecute related cases if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

“There are some county-level prosecutors who have said the same,” Pohutsky said. “But that’s by no means going to be a uniform policy across the state. So it is a risk.”

Pohutsky added that she’s also aware of the reality of the bill’s chances in the legislature this term, which runs through the end of 2022. She hopes it will also help her constituents vote for Democrats next year.

As they consider a future where Roe V. Wade is either overturned or weakened, lawmakers from several statehouses are expected file a variety related policies.

“You are seeing a wave of legislators who are ramping up their commitment to shoring up Roe in their states,” said Jennifer Driver, senior director of reproductive rights at the State Innovation Exchange (SiX), an organization that works with lawmakers to pass what they view as progressive policies. “Knowing that the Supreme Court could go against our favor, state legislators have had an increased commitment to figure out how they support or secure abortion access in their states.”

It may look different depending upon the state. In Illinois, where the Democratic-controlled legislature helped pass a 2019 state law that codified a “fundamental right” to an abortion, lawmakers last month approved legislation that would repeal a 1995 lawParents or guardians must be notified if a minor requests an abortion.

Driver told The 19thShe has been in contact with legislators in Colorado, Georgia, and Washington who plan to introduce bills soon to expand abortion rights.

Rep. Park Cannon, a Democrat in the Republican-controlled Georgia legislature, told The 19th that she has plans to help file a bill in several weeks that, as she described it, would repeal certain abortion restrictions and address “gray areas” in the law exacerbated by the pandemic. In 2019, Republicans passed legislation that prohibited abortions after six weeks of gestation. but it is not in effect amid litigation.

“It’s been something that the coalition of reproductive health rights and justice organizations have been working on for over a year,” she said. “We have done focus groups and informative sessions all across the state of Georgia. And the bill itself is our desired rewriting of abortion access in Georgia.”

As Republicans led efforts to introduce abortion in 2021, statehouses were already at the heart of the policy. a record number of abortion restrictionsThis includes a Texas law that prohibits abortions in the state after six week gestation. It also creates a system where private citizens can sue someone they believe has helped or abetted someone who has had an abortion within six weeks. The law is still in force, and Ohio Republican lawmakers have not repealed it. FloridaSimilar bills were filed.

“The sanctity of human life, born and preborn, must be preserved in Ohio,” said Republican Rep. Jena Powell, according to Cleveland.comIn a statement made at the time that the bill was filed. She added that the measure, “ is about protecting our fundamental, constitutional right to be born and live. Abortion kills, scares, and harms children. We can and must do better.”

Driver said it’s critical that Democrats file proactive legislation that can get more constituents involved in policy debates. She pointed out a majority of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

“There’s power in even introducing legislation to start the conversation, so that the everyday person in the state understands what’s at stake,” she said.