Abortion opponents have introduced three new pieces of legislation in aims of furthering their cause in the Michigan legislature.
The first bill, which has been introduced in both the State House and the Senate, would prevent the state government from having contracts with any agency that provides abortions. This bill would affect agencies like Planned Parenthood, the funding of which is already threatened by the possible defunding of former President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Federal, state and local government currently provide Planned Parenthood with over 40 percent of its funding, though no federal government funding can go toward funding abortions because of an amendment passed in 1976.
Currently, the state contracts Planned Parenthood to provide various other health care services besides abortions. LSA junior Ella Webb, president of Students for Choice, said since government funding doesn’t go toward abortions, this bill is only taking away crucial health services that are often much more expensive elsewhere.
“The biggest target of this bill is obviously Planned Parenthood, which receives significant government funding,” Webb said. “However, it’s crucial to note that public funding cannot go towards abortions, which has been the case for decades.”
Even though federal funding cannot currently go toward abortions, this new legislation would prevent any funding from going to agencies that provide abortions, even if they provide other services. In addition to the erasure of health services other than abortions, Webb said limiting access to safe abortion clinics won’t do what the sponsors of the bill intend to do: limit abortions.
“Extensive research has shown that efforts to reduce abortion through government regulations is ineffective; abortions will happen regardless, it’s simply a matter of how safe and accessible they are,” Webb said. “If politicians truly want to promote a ‘pro-life’ agenda and reduce the number of abortions, they should work to promote services that help reduce unintended pregnancy, such as better sexual health education and access to birth control — exactly the services Planned Parenthood provides.”
State Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R–Canton), one of the sponsors of the bill, said on the Senate floor that pro-choice groups are also promoting agendas that differ from their title.
“We have a culture right now that is unfortunately so pro-death,” Colbeck said, “They do it under the mask of choice. It's really not a choice. That kid does not have that choice.”
LSA senior Rachel Crawford, president of Students for Life, pushed back against claims this bill is for furthering a political agenda, considering the moral debate surrounding abortions.
“This isn’t a consideration of personal preference, but a deeply held moral stance for many people,” Crawford said. “If the state contracts with agencies that supply abortion among their other services, then they are committing a conscience rights violation for those morally opposed to abortion.”
Additionally, Crawford said the absence of clinics that provide abortions doesn’t necessarily mean there will be an absence of quality, accessible health care if the government directs funding efficiently.
“The state government should contract with agencies which provide healthcare to women and do not have abortion as a service, like Federally Qualified Health Centers,” Crawford said. “FQHCs are also not vulnerable to the economic problem of fungibility, which is the main concern for taxpayers opposed to funding agencies that also provide abortions.”
State Rep. Steve Johnson (R–Wayland), another one of the bill’s sponsors, agreed with Crawford and said there are solutions that would prevent health care services from becoming unattainable.
“There are many other organizations that provide services for women’s health,” Johnson said. “If Planned Parenthood wishes to receive funding, it's very simple: stop doing abortions.”
The second bill would allow the Michigan Secretary of State to carry “Choose Life” fundraising license plates. This bill has been introduced despite legislation that denies the state the ability to offer politically linked plates and despite the fact that a similar bill was introduced last year and never received a vote. Webb said in addition to being inappropriate for the government to facilitate “Choose Life,” the plates are politically charged in many facets.
“According to the bill, funds raised from the plates would support organizations and projects both related to anti-abortion efforts and other ‘life-affirming’ programs, like suicide prevention services,” Webb said. “As much as I support the latter efforts, intertwining them with the ‘Choose Life’ rhetoric is simply an attempt to demonize the pro-choice movement. Pro-choice is not anti-life, because pro-choice activists advocate for any individual’s right to choose what is best for them, whether that’s continuing or ending a pregnancy.”
Currently, 29 states and Washington, D.C. offer “Choose Life” license plates.
The third bill introduced in the legislature would force abortion clinics to get licenses through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, placing them under more strict rules in addition to ones in 2012.
These rules were passed by the legislature in 2012 and made abortion clinics freestanding surgical centers. Similar restrictions were introduced in Texas but were later struck down by the Supreme Court when the restrictions were deemed an “undue burden” that produced no apparent medical benefits. Webb said with the past as our guide, these restrictions could have adverse effects on the quality of care for women.
“The requirement that abortion clinics receive a license under a ruling that defines abortion clinics as freestanding surgical centers is reflective of (House Bill) 2 in Texas, which resulted in numerous clinic closures, as many could not bear the costs of the medically unnecessary upgrades to fit the new legal standards,” Webb said. “HB 2 was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last year for placing an undue burden on women.”
However, Crawford sees the “Choose Life” message as one that shouldn’t be interpreted as completely political.
“I do not see abortion as a purely political issue, while at the same time I understand that politics play a big role in abortion access and legislation.”
Regardless, Crawford doesn’t think this particular pro-life movement is necessarily the most effective.
“I support the efforts of pro-life lobbyists, but I have different strategic projections for the pro-life movement than putting slogans in license plates." Crawford said.