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Some of Michigan's remaining abortion restrictions challenged in court

 Renee Chelian in one of the Northland Family Clinics she helped build. Chelian had an abortion in 1966 at age 16, seven years before Roe v. Wade.
Paulette Parker
Michigan Radio
Renee Chelian in one of the Northland Family Clinics she helped build. Chelian had an abortion in 1966 at age 16, seven years before Roe v. Wade.

Abortion advocates are asking the Michigan Court of Claims to throw out some of the state's remaining abortion restrictions, arguing they violate the constitutional amendment to the state constitution that voters passed with Proposal 3 in 2022, enshrining abortion rights.

The Reproductive Freedom for All amendment creates some of the broadest state constitutional protections for reproductive rights in the country — at least on paper. But several abortion restrictions predating Proposal 3 and violating those protections remain in place, according to the suit filed Tuesday by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Northland Family Planning clinics, and Medical Students for Choice.

The three restrictions named in the suit are:

  1. The state’s 24-hour mandatory waiting period. Currently, it requires patients to access an online form and sign it at least 24 hours, but no more than two weeks, before their appointment. They must also print the form and bring it to their appointment, otherwise the appointment can’t proceed. At least 150 Michigan patients are turned away from their appointments each month, because they didn’t know about or made a mistake with this form, according to Planned Parenthood of Michigan.  
  2.  The state’s informed consent requirement, which is part of the same form, and requires patients to click through information about parenting and illustrations of fetal development. 
  3. A law allowing only physicians (and not other advanced care practitioners, like nurse practitioners) to provide abortions. 

Last year, Democratic legislators failed to get the votes needed to remove the 24-hour waiting period and mandatory consent form, as well as a ban on Medicaid funding for abortion. They were, however, able to pass a watered-down version of the Reproductive Health Act, allowing private health insurance to cover abortion and removing requirements that clinics providing procedural abortions must be licensed as freestanding surgical centers.

The suit filed today does not challenge the ban on Medicaid funding for abortion.

“Every day, and especially since Roe was overturned, our providers and clinic staff work tirelessly to meet the needs of both Michigan residents and out-of-state patients,” said Renee Chelian, executive director of Northland Family Planning Centers, in a news release issued Tuesday. “Despite our win with Proposal 3, patients continue to face onerous barriers to care imposed by Michigan law. These barriers should not exist under the RFFA.”

But abortion opponents say the suit is a way of skirting the legislative process, and goes beyond what voters want. They cite polling commissioned by Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference, which was used to oppose the Reproductive Health Act.

“The abortion industry, with the help of Governor Whitmer, is dead set on systematically stripping away protections for women who are seeking an abortion,” Genevieve Marnon, legislative director for Right to Life of Michigan, said in an email Tuesday. The group filed its own suit last year, seeking to have Proposal 3 overturned.

“Women should be very concerned. Don’t let anyone tell you they are doing this to fulfill the will of Michigan voters and somehow tie this to Proposal 3 – that is a fallacy.

“Governor Whitmer and Democrats in our state legislature just removed basic health and safety protections from clinics that do abortions," Marnon said. "95% of Michiganders wanted these basic, long-standing health and safety regulations to remain in place. They were unsuccessful at removing Informed Consent and the 24-hour waiting period through the legislative process last fall so are now coming after it through the courts.”

Copyright 2024 Michigan Public. To see more, visit Michigan Public.

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist and co-host of the Michigan Radio and NPR podcast Believed. The series was widely ranked among the best of the year, drawing millions of downloads and numerous awards. She and co-host Lindsey Smith received the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists. Judges described their work as "a haunting and multifaceted account of U.S.A. Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s belated arrest and an intimate look at how an army of women – a detective, a prosecutor and survivors – brought down the serial sex offender."