Anti-abortion telemedicine legislation moves to governor’s desk

    "Fight for our Families" rally on Dec. 12. 2018 at the Michigan Capitol | Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan

    Gov. Rick Snyder has often said that he’s focused on economics, not social issues, but that hasn’t stopped his fellow Republicans from sending anti-abortion legislation to his desk.

    This time it’s a permanent ban on telemedicine exams for abortion backed by Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference.

    Tom Casperson

    In 2012, Michigan enacted a ban on telemedicine in prescribing and administering medication abortion, but it’s set to expire on Dec. 31. Senate Bill 1198, sponsored by Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba), lifts the sunset indefinitely.  

    On Nov. 29, the GOP-controlled Senate passed SB 1198 on a mostly party-line 25-13 vote. The House followed suit during a long Lame Duck session Wednesday and passed the bill 62-47, sending the legislation to Snyder for his signature.  

    “Women who want a chemical abortion can still access them in the state of Michigan,” Right to Life of Michigan legislative Director Genevieve Marnon said last month. “This prevents people from Skyping with a doctor a hundred, thousands of miles away. If they have a complication, who are they going to follow up with?”

    The Legislation is opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, the Michigan State Medical Society and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan.

    In a Nov. 20 call to action, Planned Parenthood writes: “Telemedicine is the future of healthcare, allowing doctors to examine, diagnose and treat patients remotely. Michigan is already facing a shortage of doctors, particularly OB/GYNs; in fact, in nearly 1/3 of the state’s 83 counties, there is no OB/GYN. Our lawmakers should be making it easier for women to access safe, legal, medically-necessary health care, not building obstacles.”

    Christine Greig

    Republicans didn’t speak in support of the bill on the floor Wednesday. State Rep. Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills), the incoming House minority leader, said that the measure will hurt rural women.

    “Michigan families in rural communities are already suffering due to an ongoing doctor shortage in our state,” she said. “This is especially true for women in those areas, who rarely have access to the health care they desperately need. This bill was not created out of medical concern for these women, but out of partisan ideology, and that has no place in a doctor’s office. SB 1198 only serves to further restrict a woman’s access to critical, life-saving reproductive health care.”

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    Susan J. Demas is an 18-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.

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