Michigan’s Surprise Anti-Abortion Blitz

This week, the War on Women in Michigan moved from low-intensity combat to a full-scale firefight. Without warning, state Rep. Bruce Rendon (R-Lake City), launched a package of three anti-choice bills (H.B. 5711, 5712 and 5713) that represent an unprecedented assault on reproductive rights.

Among other things, the bills would turn conscientious health care providers of late-term abortions into felons and force most of the state’s reproductive health care centers to close.

“We’ve never seen such a stealthy introduction,” says Rana Elmir, communications director of the Michigan ACLU. In a blitz executed with cold precision, the Health Policy Committee introduced the bills on May 31 and held an unusually short 1-1/2 hour hearing today before calling a vote. The conversation was cut off before more than 80 representatives from major pro-choice organizations across the state had the opportunity to voice their dissent, according to a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan.

“We were just shut down,” said Meghan Groen, director of government relations for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan.

All three bills passed committee. Although the state’s legislative session is scheduled to end June 28, anti-choice politicians are pushing these bills through the legislature hard and fast. If the bills end up before a full House vote, they are expected to pass, due to Michigan’s current anti-choice majority.

Why the rush? “This is about delivering favors for special interests,” says state Rep. Kate Segal (D-Battle Creek). “It is an election year.” According to Mary Pollock, legislative vice president for Michigan NOW, the 59 percent of legislators who are in their first terms are looking to beef up their legislative records before the Michigan primary on August 7. Anti-choice state lawmakers, she says, want to “take home some bacon for the hungry pro-lifers in the first term-ers’ districts.”

The omnibus anti-abortion package certainly represents a lot of bacon. According to Planned Parenthood’s Groen:

[This is] a 60 page overhaul of the public health and criminal code–and it was introduced at the end of last week. This is the most extreme of any state. It wraps up other laws that have been introduced in other states. It will have a dramatic effect on Planned Parenthood’s ability to provide health care services in Michigan.

How dramatic will the bill’s effect be? Here’s how Pollock of NOW breaks it down:

  • HB 5713 makes it a 15-year felony to abort a fetus that is “pain capable” and defines that as occurring at 20 weeks of gestation. The effect would be to prevent abortions at 20 weeks or more unless it was to save the life of the mother with no exception to preserve the health or future fertility of the pregnant woman. Often fetal anomalies are discovered at about this time in a pregnancy, or health-threatening conditions for the mother are detected. Michigan women facing this situation would have to leave the state for treatment.
  • Requires that offices providing six or more abortions per month be considered freestanding outpatient surgical facilities subject to extensive licensing and regulatory requirements. The effect will be to close down most Michigan clinics that provide abortions and make the remaining ones charge higher fees to pay for the over-regulation.
  • While closing many Michigan clinics through onerous and unnecessary regulations, the bills would also prohibit use of new telecommunication technology to provide medical abortion access to women not living near an abortion facility.
  • Requires elaborate and more expensive procedures for disposition of fetal remains, creating a new 3-year felony for violating the fetal remains procedures and permitting a civil action against anyone who violates the new fetal remains procedures.
  • Creates a new crime called coercion to abort, linking it with the concept of domestic violence, and making abortion providers become domestic violence screening facilities rather than women’s reproductive health care providers.
  • Prohibits doctors from using their professional judgment in the use of medical abortion drugs.
  • Requires abortion providers to carry one million dollars in liability insurance when abortion is actually one of the safest medical procedures women experience.

In sum, passage of this legislation would make safe, legal abortion virtually inaccessible to Michigan women. “It will close every reproductive health care facility in the state,” says Renee Chelian, CEO of Northland Family Planning Centers. “That means Michigan woman who rely on us will not have pap smears, birth control, annual breast exams and routine gynecology care.”

If passed, the bills would, of course, face court challenges. The ACLU is already considering legal options, says Elmir.

Instead of dealing with the very real economic issues facing Michigan, elected officials have chosen instead to embrace the war on women. I am a native Detroit-er and served as president of Michigan NOW, executive director of the Michigan Abortion Rights Action League and a board member of NARAL and Planned Parenthood Detroit. I continue to care about the health and welfare of women of my home state. But this war reaches far beyond the women of Michigan; it’s being waged all over the country and the world. We can’t allow them to win. Women’s lives hang in the balance.

Photo from Flickr user Fibonacci Blue under Creative Commons 3.0.


  1. Martha Shea says:

    Is is time for us to March… and vote for Obama.
    Marching in Lansing won’t have much of an effect but marching in Detroit, Royal Oak, Ferndale, Grand Rapids. Maybe more women will pay attention.

    • Renee Chelian says:

      It is time for us to work on campaigns, give time and money and ELECT candidates who value women and will work to improve the lives of women and children and the issues that we are all facing like jobs and the economy. Michigan has many laws on the books NOW to regulate abortion care and all the state needs to do is enforce them NOT make new legislation. As one representative told the news today, he will not stop until abortion is illegal in Michigan. These laws, as he said VERY clearly, is not about the truth but to make all reproductive health care illegal and close the centers where this care is offered.

      • Candy Grimm says:

        And how many mistresses does he have and how much of his campaign money will be used to support his offspring and to shut the media up?????

        • Candy Grimm says:

          In your next National election, vote OBAMA!!!! At least he has an open mind and respects women… He lives with 3 of them and surely would not force any one to go without contraception or avoid abortion because of his choice, but rather would allow them their’s!!!

    • We need to organize statewide!

    • We need to march this next week – if we start now we can reach more ears and get a larger turnout. Lansing and all the other big cities that are listed above are good starting points. March anywhere and everywhere we can. It might not change the decision but it will show that we won’t take this kind of injustice and that we’re watching and we’re prepared to fight back!

  2. Carol King says:

    Update: The Michigan House did not vote on the bills today. Pro-choice activists reported that over 10,000 phone and emails opposing the bills were generated Wednesday and Thursday. I’ve been told that several Republican legislators complained to the leadership that they were not given any notice of these stealth bills and were not going to vote on them today. They may take the package of bills up on Tuesday, June 12 but that’s not certain. We need to turn up the heat – keep those calls and emails coming – they do make a difference. Most importantly, get involved. The elections this year are critical for women and women’s issues. Educate yourself about the candidates’ positions, volunteer, donate money, organize your family and friends – make it your voice heard.

  3. Sadly, the way the brain works–most people have their mind made up from the start. Changing other people’s minds takes more than presenting logic and reasoning. It’s the emotional side of the brain that holds sway.

    • Candy Grimm says:

      Let every parent imagine their SON paying for his orgasm for the rest of his life….If men were held accountable for their part in reproduction!!! Very soon the emotion could be swayed!!! Not everybody is a wealthy politician with mega donations to offset those costs!!!

      • pookas66 says:

        the problem with that statement candy is that women want it both ways. they want the women to have the full say on whether they get abortions without the man having a say.

  4. Kathleen Carlson says:

    The biggest problem that I see with this sort of legislation is that, among other things, it sets legal precedent for invasion of privacy and suppression of internet access to information, all while using propaganda that makes people think they are saving babies, not destroying their own rights and freedoms.

    We need to support education, not prohibition. It saves far more lives and a lot more taxpayer’s dollars.

    • pookas66 says:

      oh please kathleen. the dems have been poking their hands in our personal lives for years and now you have a problem with it

  5. Cynthia Gurin says:


    Women’s rights are easily negated. One need only remove the ability of women to actually exercise their rights.

  6. It is infuriating that in 2012 we are still constantly fighting for basic reproductive freedom. Why do we constantly have to be on the defensive about such a fundamental and private issue? It makes me sick. Where is the outrage? Why are these republican men so threatened by women’s equality?

    • Candy Grimm says:

      Because the males involved are not held accountable for their part and totally should be!!! let the teenage boy have to spend the rest of his life financially caring ffor the health care and support costs and see what happens… We as women need to demand that equality!!

  7. The author of this article is so right. There are many important, helpful things the government could be doing. The war on women is costly, useless and does not address the real needs of people.Its political powerhousing a way for gov to ignore and play instead of doing their job. Womens health and well being is not a easy pawn to be used for power or any other reason. This war is not about women. Its about the inability of the current R- government to understand or care about real issues. Shame on them.

  8. Liz Homer says:

    One thing that didn’t get reported was the testimony of two OB/GYN representatives who are leaders in the field. They pointed out that abortion facilities are already covered by the same laws as other health facilities and abortions are 14 times less risky than giving birth. They objected to having to read and ask questions according to a (Catholic/RTL) script. They pointed out that if they criminalize these activities and require doctors to have $1 million dollars in insurance, it would cost around $70,000 to the doctor annually. The head of OB/GYN training at the University of Michigan said based on what has happened in other states, graduates will take up practice in other states, leading to shortages in Michigan. I wish I had a video of their testimony and people could see it. It is great to know the calls and emails are having an effect on some at least. The whole hearing was so insulting to the citizens of this state, I just everyone could have seen what went on.

  9. Jennifer Marie Marcus says:

    All rational women in the state of Michigan , and for that matter in the United States ,who value their freedom ,equality,justice and right to choose should vote against EVERY SINGLE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE on the ballot in this election cycle .These Republican Politicians have made it clear through their actions and behavior that that they are acting in concert throughout our nation in attempt to return our great country back to the 19th century thereby making all women subservient to men as second class citizens so they can reassert and reclaim their traditional phony religious, Fundamentalist ,patriarchal, misogynist society which they have the audacity to call as “FAMILY VALUES!”: More like “Family BS” just to their maintain power and control over all of us!

    • Candy Grimm says:

      Well said and congratulations for speaking up!!! We need more people like you on this planet! Women of the World Unite and demand more and better! Statistics show that 64 %of women seeking abortions are catholic……..why we might ask?.. Because that is their only contraceptive option and they are so subservient they won’t tell their story for fear of being chastised by their male counterpart!!!
      If the pro lifers would put their money where their mouths are so to speak, they should all become Foster parents as we know there is always a shortage of those!!!!

  10. Ecobabe says:

    I don’t think it’s as “without warning” as you might think. Note that the date the legislation was introduced is June 6 — one day after Gov Scott Walker survived the recall election in neighboring Wisconsin. I live in Wisconsin, and we were tremendously concerned that if he was able to defend his office ultra-conservatives would see that as a sign they could get away with whatever they wanted — not just here but all over the nation in purple states. Indeed, the day after Walker won I started seeing promoted ads on Facebook that talked about riding the victory in WI to bust unions in MI, and now I hear about this extreme anti-choice legislation.

  11. No consideration for future possible health of the woman or her fertility?!

  12. Judi Briggs says:

    Were these the same party of people who pushed through the law making it legal to ride a motorcycle without a helmet because “It’s my head and it’s my choice whether I choose to wear a helmet or not because I have a free will and I can do what I want!”? Why does this argument not apply to women’t internal reproductive organs?

    • Candy Grimm says:

      Well said and vote OBAMA!!!!!Especially if you want a chance at choice!! having the OPTION to choose does not automatically mean we would choose to have an abortion, but it would be nice to know that if we did, it would be safe and legal and respect our wishes given the circumstances of our life at the time.

  13. Candy Grimm says:

    How crazy are you Americans,,, There are so many more issues that you need to address. Decreasing access to birth control and abortion increases the number of people living below the poverty line and needing tax payer, government assistance. the same people you don’t want to help with health care!!!!!! Wherever there is a pregnant female that did not plan the pregnancy or does not want it, there is also a male PARTICIPANT!!!!! Where and when will you hold him responsible and accountable??? he should have to pay child support until the child the said female is Forced to conceive and give birth to is either out of post secondary education or FOREVER if disabeled!!! Once the men are also forced to do what they don’t really want to do and it hits them where it counts…in the Wallet…the decisions and law will become clear!! The appropriate laws will then be passed, and it won’t deny women access to birth control or abortion!!! WOMEN out there, you need to grow some balls and stand up for each other!!! It may not be your choice, but would it be OK with you if someone told you you have to have an abortion or else?????

  14. Gloria B says:

    How can these Republican elected officials go out into the community and ask for woman’s votes and at the same time deny them the freedom of reproductive rights? How can Republican woman not see that when you give away your reproductive rights, you give away your most personal rights to control your body the way you want? Woman both anti-abortion or pro choice, notice that when you give away your freedoms there is always a male patriarch collecting your rights behind the cloak of Priest, Pope, Legislator, and The Christian right. While they enjoy the gift of the little blue pill and we worry about care and cost of raising a child. Michigan is not the only state that is making it so hard for low income woman to get basic services. All of us have to be on the alert to our state bills concerning our own rights.

  15. haha I don’t think “marching” is the answer. Try not having sex with republicans.

  16. Christine says:

    “with no exception to preserve the health or future fertility of the pregnant woman.”

    If continued pregnancy will paralyze you, leave you unable to have additional children, tears your insides out… your SOL. As long as it won’t kill you, YOU will continue this pregnancy, against your will. Amazing.

  17. Christine says:

    Here is his email: brucerendon2012@gmail.com

    • DeBorah Green says:

      Thank you, Christine.
      Here is a copy of the email I just sent to his address;

      Dear Mr. Rendon;

      I must assume, due to your recent legislative package, that, because you are so firmly anti-choice and have decided that women need that strong male voice to help them guide their private reproduction decisions and choices, you are also firmly on the side of social welfare and employment reform issues regarding the welfare of women after they have been forced to conceive children against their misguided will. Is it fair to say that you are the proud parent of several adopted “special needs children?” Do you foster several other “hard to place youngsters?” Do you sit on the boards of prominent non-profits that provide services to women and families stricken by poverty, health-related issues, domestic abuse and violence, those helping women navigate through unwanted pregnancy, and those that help place those children in safe and loving homes? And,lastly, have you also introduced legislation that would protect families faced with financial, health, and safety hardships?

      I know the answer to these questions must be a deafening “YES,” as you must be so devoutly Christian that you live by the words of Jesus on a daily, no, make that moment by moment basis. In the off chance that you would answer, “No,” to these queries, let me say, “Shame on you.” And, in that case, in a most “un-Christian” manner, I would wish upon you the very hard-ships you seem to believe you have the unequivocal right to force on more than half of Michigan’s population.

      It is unfortunate that you, and the Michigan legislature, are having a field day turning the lovely state into something befitting a Sci-Fi novel. My hope is that it does not hit the “Best Seller” list and you do not have the opportunity to turn the state into a humanitarian wasteland.

      DeBorah Green

  18. Our government governs the roads I drive, so we pay a tax and/or a ticket toward the highways, when I call 911, it comforts me they are only minutes away. When I fail an exam, its my responsibility, not our government, when I want to over achieve at work should I expect to share what I’ve worked for? I will give to my churches, promise. To make a decision to abort is a presidents decision a very delicate one at that. Who are we to preside over someone elses body and force the president of their body to choose differently to their reproductive right? If you’re a male, you should have no choice. Heres the deal, I don’t agree with abortion, I was adopted and am living a healthy life, thank God my biological mother didn’t abort! but it still doesn’t give me the right to decide a ladies reproductive rights or actually any persons reproductive rights, male or female! Michigan you’ve gone too far! stick to reducing government fat and regulation would be a smart move during these difficult times!

  19. Susan Cope says:

    Thank you,Carol, for publicizing this attempt to derail our reproductive rights. It shocks me that women are under siege to this degree.

  20. Please give to Emily’s List to have more women in Congress. http://www.emilyslist.org Also, get involved, because if you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention as the old saying goes. Get Ms. Magazine, copy the war on women article, and pass them out to ALL OF your friends of BOTH parties. We need to win and we need to get rid of the Tea Party anywhere it exists. The MOST important thing- VOTE, and vote DEMOCRATIC! Good luck and in solidarity- your sister

  21. What ie really behind the war on women? “THE VAGINA ANALOGS: The politics of lipservice in the digital (r)age” http://www.acontrolledsubstance.com/2012/06/17/the-vagina-analogs-start-spreading-the-news/

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