Abortion is one of the safest medical practices in the United States. Less than .03% of women having had abortions require hospitalization due to complication1. Whether you agree with the practice itself is not being questioned. Is abortion a safe practice? The answer is yes.
In December of 2012, “Governor Rick Snyder signs abortion bill” splashes across the front pages of newspapers. Simultaneously, cheers erupt from anti-choice groups of Michigan as disdain paints the faces of pro-choice Michigan residents. The disparity in reaction lends further examination into how groups may be framing HB 5711.
From the website of Governor Snyder:
“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.” 3
And from Planned Parenthood:
“The governor signed HB 5711, the omnibus anti-abortion bill that creates unnecessary, burdensome, and costly licensing requirements for women's health centers and could reduce access to comprehensive care.” 4
With such different frames of understanding, what is HB 5711 exactly?
The bill requires health centers that provide abortions to be “freestanding surgical outpatient” operating rooms if they advertise as an outpatient abortion provider or perform more than 120 abortions2. This suggests that abortions are typically surgically invasive, which they are not. Additionally, in specifying the application to providers who publically advertise, it seems to be targeting the practice, rather than the safety.
For the abortion providers, this includes annual licensing fees, structural building regulations, and regular inspections2. These regulations are unnecessary, they do not ensure the health and wellbeing of women, but rather are the most obvious form of political bologna. By focusing the regulation of building structure, such as hallway and door size6, HB 5711 implies that the spaces in which abortions are being provided are not safe… a problematic assumption given the realities on how safe the practice of abortion is.
The bill also prevents the use of telemedicine, providing health care resources to poor or rural women who do not have access to care otherwise5. In arguing that HB 5711 serves to protect women without infringing on their rights, doesn’t this seem contradictory in preventing women from receiving safe healthcare? I would say so.
The bill also requires the physician to determine if the patient has been coerced in any way5 and gives patients the options to dispose of fetal remains by burial or incineration3. The ways in which coercion and fetal disposal are framed imposes a moral lens on a bill claiming to question the dangers of abortion, not the concept of abortion itself.
HB 5711 passed as a claim for the protection of women and their health; the protection from a procedure that causes hospitalization due to complication in less than 1% of its patients? It’s hard to see how operating room sanctions for non-operations, the structure of buildings, and the disposing of fetal remains are at all related to the health and well being of the women receiving abortions.
Well, folks, let’s call a spade a spade here. The reality? HB 5711 seeks to appease the incessant anti-choicers who want to close abortion providers throughout Michigan without explicitly saying so. On another note, the language of the bill suggests far more than an attack on reproductive freedoms through political hogwash. The discourse suggests that abortion is an unsafe practice overall. In making this claim subtly, it adds to the mystification surrounding abortion and clouds the realities of HB 5711 motives.
Despite this, the fact remains that HB 5711 in all its contradictory glory was signed in December 2012. These restrictions are now beginning their snowball like dissention onto women and their right to choose. How you ask? Not by taking away the right, but taking away the choice. With providers in Michigan potentially closing their doors, the option is merely non-existent.
This bologna that is HB 5711 went into effect March 31, having very real consequences for women throughout Michigan. Private providers are in most obvious danger due to the building regulations, potentially requiring costly renovations at the owner’s expense.
As the regulations move forward, it is important to stay engaged and active. The anti-choice bills will not stop with HB 5711. We must maintain support for not only the right to choose, but also support the sustenance of choice itself.
An additional important note to consider is what both public and private providers make available to women and families. Places like the Northland Family Planning Center do not just provide abortions for women, but provide them with access to resources and educational tools to protect and sustain their health and welfare. Closing their doors has far more complex consequences beyond solely eliminating the opportunity to administer abortions, though problematic in its own right.
That is something I don’t think anti-choicers, nor Governor Snyder, took into consideration in their hastely signed, lame duck omnibus legislative bill.
Tori Whitworth, NOW Intern
Tori Whitworth, NOW Intern
1 "Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States." Guttmacher Institute. N.p., Aug. 2011. Web. 12 Apr. 2013. <http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html#11>.
2 Planned Parenthood. Should the Legislature Enact Changes to Abortion Law? (Bridge) No, Michigan House’s Focus on Abortion Misguided, Dangerous. Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan, 21 June 2012. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.
3 "Protecting the Health and Welfare of Women in Michigan." Web blog post. Michigan.gov: Michigan's Official Website. State of Michigan, 28 Dec. 2012. Web. 12 Apr. 2013. <http://www.michigan.gov/snyder/0,4668,7-277-60279-291994--,00.html>.
4 Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood Stands With Women on the 40th Anniversary of Roe v Wade; Advocates for Continued Access to Safe, Legal Abortion. Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood West and Northern Michigan. 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2013.
5 Yarrow, Allison. "Michigan’s Abortion Bombshell: GOP Gets Last-Minute Restrictions." The Daily Beast. N.p., 28 Dec. 2012. Web. 12 Apr. 2013. <http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/12/28/michigan-s-abortion-bombshell-gop-gets-last-minute-restrictions.html>.
6 Erb, Robin and Laitner, Bill. "Abortion Clinics Could Close under New Law, Both Sides Agree." Detroit Free Press. Gannett Co., Inc., 30 Dec. 2012. Web. 12 Apr. 2013. <http://www.freep.com/article/20121230/NEWS06/312300246/Abortion-clinics-could-close-under-new-law-both-sides-agree>.