Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder today signed into law H.B. 5711, the most sweeping piece of anti-abortion legislation ever introduced in the state, marking the end of a nearly six-month long battle.
Snyder told the Detroit News that his decision to sign the bill, as well as to veto a bill involving an insurance company that also would have banned abortion coverage in the insurance plan, was a result of “soul searching,” stating that he vetoed the Blue Cross/Blue Shield ban because “it is wrong to tell private insurers and employers what they can negotiate in their contracts.” On the other hand, telling women what they should be allowed medically to do with their own bodies is less worrisome for Snyder. Snyder called the final version of the superbill mostly stripped of “controversial” issues, telling Detroit News, “To be screened for coercion is a reasonable thing. It is really a question of women’s health and safety.”
Along with the “anti-coercion” provision, H.B. 5711 includes a new law requiring that all clinics that perform more than 10 abortions a month be licensed as freestanding surgical outpatient facilities, a move that could shutter some clinics but is more likely to affect the opening of new clinics in the state. Those currently in business should be able to apply for waivers regarding some administrative and building regulations.
Also part of H.B. 5711 is a ban on tele-med abortions, a form of medication abortion that could have made the procedure much more accessible for women in rural areas, especially those with less financial means.
“Screening for coercion is already a part of the process of getting an abortion,” Meghan Groen, Director of Government Relations for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, which lobbied against the bill, told RH Reality Check. “Tele-medicine is becoming a new way to provide more access for women in rural or other communities, and can be performed with the help of nurse practitioners. It is frustrating that when the governor says it is wrong to tell private businesses what they can or can’t do, when it comes to a medical decision between a health practitioner and patient the legislature can step in.”
Still, Groen admits that the final bill could have been much worse than what passed. Revisions to the bill modified restrictions that would have all-but eliminated access to safe abortion care, but left in place regulations that will nonetheless severely restrict access for many women and greatly hamper efforts to expand it. “It was a bad bill, and he should have vetoed it, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been,” said Groen.
Michigan Democratic Senator Gretchen Whitmer, who opposed the bill, was much less generous. Whitmer thoroughly criticized Snyder’s signing of the bill, saying via statement,
The signing of the bill, as well as the veto of the insurance coverage legislation reveals the twisted path down which Snyder is walking as he plans his reelection campaign. Recent polling ranks him as the third most unpopular governor in the country.