Michigan Senate Committee on Health Policy hears testimony on bills to strengthen abortion protections
On March 1st, Michigan’s Senate Committee on Health Policy held its second meeting of the new legislation session. The committee meeting took testimony and voted on a batch of bills addressing Michigan abortion laws.
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Sen. Erika Geiss (D – Taylor) sponsored SB 2, which would repeal the state’s 1931 Michigan law banning abortions.
Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D – West Bloomfield), Sen. Stephanie Chang (D – Detroit), and Geiss sponsored SBs 37, 38, and 39, respectively. This set of bills, which are tie barred, would repeal criminal penalties, sentencing guidelines, and parole minimums for individuals for administering medications for abortions or to procure a miscarriage. Lastly, Sen. Sarah Anthony (D – Lansing) sponsored SB 93, which would repeal criminal penalties for individuals who advertise or sell abortion prescription drugs.
Geiss was the only senator to speak on the entire package of bills to the committee. She first laid out the history of these bills, and how she had introduced similar bills year after year since 2018. She spoke about how she and other legislators attempted each session to repeal the 1931 abortion law without ever having a hearing regarding the bills in either the Senate or House.
Geiss explained that since there has been an attack on these privacy laws and abortion access, the bills that the committee are taking up today have evolved since 2018 to reflect those recent attacks.
“It became increasingly clear that even in our own state, that should there be an opportunity to repeal a dormant law–not only restricting abortion law access but also restricting birth control–made dormant by the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, we should make every effort to do so,” Geiss said.
Geiss spoke how the public felt it necessary to use other methods to protect access to reproductive healthcare beyond the legislature to get these provisions passed by a ballot referendum. Geiss referenced the Dobbs decision, and how it is now up to the states to determine their reproductive healthcare policies. She stated that the people of Michigan did decide in 2022, and it’s up to the legislature to act in accordance with the people’s will.
“The passage of Prop 3 in November 2022 shows us clearly that the people want to see this antiquated zombie law repealed,” Geiss said. “It is imperative that we make this technical clean up so that we are in alignment with our update[d] state constitution.”
Dr. Sarah Wallett, chief medical operating officer for Planned Parenthood of Michigan, was one of eleven individuals who spoke in support of this bill package. Wallett told the committee that since the repeal of Roe this past year, her work experience has been overwhelmingly challenging and heartbreaking to witness.
“It’s terrifying to know that nearly a century-old ban remains on Michigan law books threatening to label me a felon,” Wallett said. “I should not have to fear being arrested, separated from my family, stripped of my medical license, and barred from practicing medicine simply for providing the care my patients depend on.”
The committee heard testimony from six individuals in opposition to the bill package, 33 written letters of support, and three written letters against the bills. The committee passed all the bills on party lines, six in favor and four opposed.