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Protecting the Health and Welfare of Women in Michigan

By Reinvention Blog | December 28, 2012

Capitol Building

Today, Governor Rick Snyder took action on two pieces of legislation relating to abortion in Michigan.

The first bill, HB 5711, puts important and reasonable emphasis on protecting the health and wellness of pregnant women in Michigan. The second bill, SB 1293, brings vital reforms to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan, but also included provisions -- entirely unrelated to those reforms -- that placed new restrictions on abortion coverage in instances of rape, incest, and to protect the life or health of the mother.

Governor Snyder signed HB 5711 in order to help protect the health and welfare of pregnant women in Michigan and vetoed SB 1293 because it would have stretched the hand of government too far to the detriment of women in our state.

HB 5711: Protecting the health and welfare of women in Michigan

When HB5711 was introduced earlier this year, it included provisions that would have significantly restricted women's rights. Thanks to the hard work of legislators and their staffs, along with input from pro-life and pro-choice organizations, this bill now provides important protections for the health and welfare of women in Michigan without infringing on their rights.

What it does:

1) New protections to ensure that women are not coerced into receiving abortions against their will

No woman should be forced to have an abortion against her will, and under this law, physicians or qualified health professionals will screen patients to make sure that coercion is not taking place. In addition, thoughtful, thorough information and training tools will be developed to ensure that women have the opportunity to review information regarding this type of coercion and the resources available to them.

2) New requirements to ensure that certain health facilities performing abortions be licensed and inspected

Under HB 5711, facilities that have advertised outpatient abortion services and that conduct more than 120 surgical abortions per year will need to comply with health and safety standards already met by several locations across our state. This bill also provides that waivers can be granted to any facility that existed in 2012 or before.

3) Public health standards to ensure that fetal remains are disposed of properly

Health care facilities in Michigan abide by certain guidelines in the disposal of fetal remains, all in order to ensure the health and wellbeing of our community. HB 5711 codifies those measures into law to ensure that they are followed.

Governor Snyder explains his reasons for signing HB 5711:

"The bill adds inquiries for a physician or qualified health professional to screen patients regarding coercion to abort. Thoughtful, thorough information and training tools will be developed to ensure that women have the opportunity to review information regarding this type of coercion and the resources available to them.

"In my view, all coercion is wrong. Society should work to stop coercion in any form whether it's bullying a classmate or forcing someone to get, or not get, an abortion. As the parent of three kids, I have personally experienced being asked to leave the examining room when I have brought in one of my children with a sports-related injury. It is unsettling to think that someone could believe that you may have hurt your own child. However, if it helps catch even one abusive situation, isn't that worth it?"

SB 1293: Reforming Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

One of Governor Snyder's top priorities is to reinvent health care in Michigan, and reforming Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan -- our state's largest insurer -- is key to that reinvention. In September, Governor Snyder announced a plan to reform Blue Cross, and with SB 1293, was on the cusp of achieving that goal.

Governor Snyder's plan for reforming Blue Cross did not include any mention or references to abortion, yet SB 1293 as passed included a provision that would change the insurance marketplace for abortion coverage in two ways:

1) This new requirement would have treated situations that involve rape, incest and the health of the mother as elective abortions, meaning that women would either have to pay out of pocket for abortion in these circumstances, or they would have to elect to purchase additional coverage.

2) The abortion changes in this bill would interfere with the private marketplace for insurance, interfering with individuals' rights to contract with insurance companies.

As a result of the new provisions, Governor Snyder decided to veto SB 1293. Governor Snyder explains why:

"I believe citizens should have the ability to opt in or opt out of abortion coverage in government-created health exchanges supported with public funds. "Opting in" to this coverage shouldn't be difficult, and it is my understanding that the coverage would be available at nominal additional cost.

"However, the current bill goes too far in two ways. First, it treats situations that involve rape, incest and health of the mother as elective abortions. I don't believe it is appropriate to tell a woman who becomes pregnant due to a rape that she needed to select elective insurance coverage. Second, the abortion changes in this bill interfere in the current private marketplace for insurance. Insurance companies and private buyers of insurance should be able to conduct their own affairs."

Governor Snyder explained that his decision to sign HB 5711 and to veto SB 1293 was not one he arrived at easily.

"Since becoming governor, there is probably no decision that I have struggled with more or that has weighed on me as heavily. Is my analysis perfect? It is not; but it is one person's attempt to carefully balance an explosive and emotional issue in a thoughtful way. I have learned that there will be people on both sides of this issue that will hate me for either one bill or the other. I have already seen hatred and lack of reason from people who are friends of mine.

"I signed HB 5711 because of its important and reasonable emphasis on protecting the health and wellness of pregnant women in Michigan. I vetoed SB 1293, despite it being a major initiative of mine, because it would have stretched the hand of government too far. I hope most of you, regardless of which side of the issue you're on, will appreciate my effort to find the best answer and policy here."


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