Michigan hotel offering free stays for out-of-state abortion seekers draws national attention

    Planned Parenthood rally | Kelly Schott, Flickr

    A Michigan hotelier announced in May that she would give free accommodations to anyone from out of state seeking a safe abortion — and her offer is reaching national news outlets.

    Within the last week, the Washington Post, CNN, and Fox News, among others, have reported on the Yale Hotel, which sits on Main Street in the sleepy town of Yale in St. Clair County in Michigan’s Thumb.

    On May 16, hotel manager Shelley O’Brien wrote to “sisters that live in Alabama, Ohio, Georgia, Arkansas, Missouri, or any of the other states … with similar laws restricting [abortion] access … if you can make it to Michigan, we will support you with several nights lodging, and transportation to and from your appointment.”

    Since then, no one has taken O’Brien up on her offer, but she did tell the Post that the attendant publicity brought in $400 worth of new business in just the first week after her announcement on Facebook. She said on her Facebook page that she’ll donate a quarter of that revenue to the Yellowhammer Fund, a pro-choice nonprofit that helps women in Alabama seek abortions.

    “Between gas and lodging, you’re looking at probably $300 or $400 that you’re going to put out on top of the cost of abortion,” O’Brien told the Detroit Free Press recently. “And if you’re having an abortion because you have no way to provide for a baby, then how are you going to drum up $1,000 or $1,500 to do it? If I can help at all in that, it satisfies the social worker in me.”

    Republicans pass abortion ban on Right to Life lobby day

    Alabama passed a controversial law in May banning abortion in the state. That law, and other recently passed restrictive laws in other states, are likely aimed at forcing the U.S. Supreme Court to re-evaluate its Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in 1973.

    The GOP-controlled Michigan Legislature also passed a bill in May that would ban the medical procedure of dilation and evacuation. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has stated her intent to veto the bill.

    Derek Robertson
    Derek Robertson is a former associate editor of the Advance and is now a freelance writer in Chicago. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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