Michigan Democrats, known for their efforts to protect abortion rights, faced internal dissent within the state legislative caucus, leading to a slowdown in proposed legislation earlier this year.
Two crucial bills aimed at repealing a 24-hour wait period for abortion procedures and allowing state Medicaid funds for abortions were absent from a package signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday.
The scaled-back Reproductive Health Act within the signed package eliminates regulations aimed at abortion providers, known as TRAP laws. Additionally, it ensures that students in Michigan public universities have access to information on all reproductive health options. Moreover, the act repeals a law that required patients to purchase a separate insurance rider for abortion coverage.
However, the absence of more substantive policy changes seemed to diminish the impact of the bill signing event outside Detroit.
State Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, a sponsor of the package, acknowledged the impact of the Democrats’ slim majority, stating that “one person’s personal politics can still greatly impact what we are able to do.” She urged moving forward after delays caused by dissent within the caucus.
Despite Democratic control in the Legislature and governor’s office following the voter-approved Prop 3 last November, internal divisions emerged in September when State Rep. Karen Whitsett voted against the Reproductive Health Act during a committee hearing, signaling challenges for its passage.
With Republicans unanimously against the package, Democrats needed Whitsett’s support, holding a narrow 56-54 advantage in the House until recent changes due to two Democratic representatives winning mayoral races.
Whitsett opposed the repeal of the state law mandating a 24-hour wait period before abortions and the bill allowing Medicaid coverage for abortions.
Following the passage of a pared-down package, a group of prominent abortion rights advocates criticized Whitsett for hindering critical legislation that lacked key reforms widely supported across the state.
Planned Parenthood of Michigan highlighted that approximately 150 patients per month have had to cancel abortion appointments due to the state-mandated 24-hour delay law, considering Medicaid restrictions as de facto bans for individuals with low incomes.
Gov. Whitmer expressed hope that lawmakers could pass the omitted policies for her to sign.