LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – The House Health Policy Committee passed several pieces of legislation that would amend older laws regarding abortion, part of the Reproductive Health Act, and are headed to the legislature for consideration. 

Despite several in the package of bills passing, Representative Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit), who also serves as the Majority Vice Chair, voted no on several of the bills in the package. 

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“I will not vote and fund Medicaid abortions, that’s not gonna happen,” Whitsett said according to the Detroit News. She added on the state’s 24-hour waiting period: “I do not think it is too much to ask when someone’s terminating a life, a 24-hour pause to be able to say for sure this is the decision you want to make. 24 hours is not too much.”

Without Rep. Whitsett’s support for the package of bills, they could fail in the legislature. 

Out of the 11 bill package, only six were voted on and passed including House Bills 4949, 4950, 4953, 4954, 4955, and 4956.  Representative Alabas Farhat (D-Dearborn) voted largely in line with the Democrat committee majority, but passed on House Bill 4953. 

One of the bill’s that Rep. Whitsett opposes, HB 4959, would allow for abortions to be covered by Medicaid, which removes several sections from the Social Welfare Act including section 109a which reads “which prohibits an abortion from being provided with public funds to a recipient of welfare benefits unless necessary to save the life of the mother.  The prohibition applies whether the funds are provided through a program of medical assistance, general assistance, or categorical assistance or through any other type of public aid or assistance program,” according to the House Fiscal Agency report. 

According to Katherine Bussard, Executive Director of Salt & Light Global – Great Lakes Justice Center, the majority of the bills in the package would go beyond Prop 3. 

“For example, HB 4950 removes common-sense surgical facility licensing (repealing MCL 333.20115 and 333.22224) from abortion clinics that perform more than 120 abortions a year. Licensing standards for the facility are broad and include things like filing a copy of the floor plan with emergency services in case first responders need to assist during an emergency, and allowing the state to conduct periodic inspections to make sure operations are performed by credentialed professionals (Section R. 325.45333 – Surgical procedures) and that a physician or registered professional nurse is onsite while patients are receiving care, or that proper sanitary conditions hand scrubbing (Section R. 325.45335 – Surgical hand-scrub hygiene procedures) and proper instrument equipment storage (Section R. 325.45337 – Surgical equipment, instruments, supplies, and reprocessing) are being maintained for public health,” Executive Director Bussard said to Michigan News Source in an email.  

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Bussard also referred to former testimony from last week’s House Health Policy Committee Meeting

“BASIC policies were instituted for abortion clinics about 10 years ago, because these standards were always followed in Michigan before licensing. For example, can you imagine your sister or daughter visiting a clinic and having an invasive surgical abortion in this room from a clinic in Muskegon?” she said in an email to Michigan News Source. “Nothing in Prop. 3 requires that these type of common sense regulations go away, and in fact, according to pulling, more than 90% of Michiganders support keeping these health and safety standards.” 

Ahead of the legislature voting on the bill package, Governor Gretchen Whitmer shared her support for bills adding, “I urge the legislature to pass it.” 

“Today, we took an important step forward on the Reproductive Health Act, commonsense legislation to repeal politically motivated, medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion that criminalize doctors providing medical care, jack up out of pocket health care costs, and impose needless regulations on health centers,” Gov. Whitmer said in a statement. 

Last week, several doctors who perform abortions testified in favor of the package, including Dr. Halley Crissman, of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, who explained that an abortion is not a surgery. 

“So there is a difference between procedures and surgeries,” Dr. Halley Crissman, representing the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, addressed questions about what an abortion entails. “So there are many clinics that perform biopsies, that perform skin procedures, dental procedures that are office based settings, that are clinical settings. Obviously there are surgeries where we make incisions on people’s abdomens, or other parts of their body that require a surgical facility.” 

“Abortion procedures are not that type of procedure,” Dr. Crissman added.