Two Women Legislators Try to Make Michigan Less Gynophobic

BpYeHYsCEAA8aiRGynophobia: “Fear of or contempt for women.” Otherwise known as the disease currently plaguing the Michigan legislature.

Insurance bans and fetal heartbeat requirements implemented over the course of the last year have made Michigan an increasingly toxic place for women seeking abortions. Thankfully, two state congressional representatives are pushing a bill that would at least make abortions more financially accessible for many women.

State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, and state Rep. Sarah Roberts, D-St. Clair Shores, introduced a bill recently that would repeal Michigan’s requirement that women purchase separate health insurance add-ons to cover abortions. Currently, only seven of Michigan’s 42 insurance providers offer the add-on, complicating many women’s ability to pay for abortions. At a press conference, Whitmer described the rider requirement as “misogynistic,” noting that “all women voters were silenced by the way this law came about.”

Similarly, Dr. Tim Johnson, an OB-GYN and professor at the University of Michigan, said that the need to buy an insurance add-on creates “a lot of uncertainty in the doctor-patient relationship.” Unfortunately, conservative representatives dominate Michigan’s legislature, a fact that Roberts said will make it very unlikely their repeal will pass.

Three recently introduced bills that would ban abortions after doctors detect a fetal heartbeat (usually audible after eight weeks) confirm Roberts’ lack of faith in her legislature. The bills would adversely affect many women who discover their pregnancies after missing a menstrual cycle—a discovery that could take up to a month—or who, after weeks and even months, discover fetal genetic defects that could lead to miscarriage. Even in cases where the fetal heartbeat was inaudible, the bills would authorize doctors to require women undergo an additional, probably invasive procedure (transvaginal ultrasounds, anyone?) “to determine if the fetus is physically developing.”

State Rep.Tom Hooker, R-By on Center, and 16 male co-sponsors introduced the fetal heartbeat bills in early June, and they are currently being reviewed by the Michigan House health policy committee. Only three of the committee’s 19 members are women, reflecting the low representation of women within the Michigan legislature.

On top of the fact that Michigan women’s health is predominantly in the hands of male lawmakers, some of these men are actively working to perpetuate a misogynistic environment within the legislature. A group of three male Michigan House representatives recently tweeted, “Don’t say we don’t understand women,” accompanied by a photo of them reading Glamour and other fashion magazines. As RH Reality Check notes, the photo assumes “women are fundamentally frivolous people who are too busy worrying about shoes to think about important issues like economics or their own health care needs.”

Four female representatives in the Michigan legislature responded with a photo of themselves reading legislative bills. Of course, as long as these women are the minority within the legislature, it’s unlikely Michigan will pass women-friendly laws in the near future.

Photo tweeted by three representatives in the Michigan Legislature accompanied by the caption, “Don’t say we don’t understand women.” Courtesy of Twitter



Margaret Nickens is a senior at Brown University and an intern with Ms. magazine. Check out her blog or follow her on twitter


Margaret Nickens is a senior at Brown University and an intern with Ms. magazine. Follow her on Twitter.