Not only did both houses of Michigan’s Republican-controled legislature, with the aid of billionaire conservative activists like Dick DeVos and the Koch brothers, jam through controversial right-to-work legislation this afternoon, in violation of long-honored rules, as members of the public were forced from the Capitol by armed police and pro-labor protestors were assaulted with pepper spray, but the Republicans, hoping to make the most of this pre-holiday lame-duck session, also made their move to push through an ambitious collection of draconian bills aimed at curtailing the reproductive freedom of women in our state. Following, with more on that, is a clip from the Huffington Post.
State lawmakers in Michigan are using their lame-duck session to pass a bundle of bills that would significantly restrict women’s ability to access and pay for abortions in the state.
The state Senate passed three bills on Thursday that would ban abortion coverage in state-based health insurance exchanges and all private insurance plans, and another bill that would allow employers and medical professionals to refuse to cover or provide health treatment to which they morally object. State lawmakers are also expected to pass a so-called omnibus bill on Thursday that would impose prohibitive building regulations on abortion clinics and ban the use of telemedicine to prescribe abortion medication…
Senate Bills 612, 613 and 614, which passed along party lines in the State Senate on Thursday, will prevent all insurance plans in Michigan from covering abortion unless a woman would die without the procedure. The measures do not include exceptions for rape, incest or pregnancy complications that would jeopardize the mother’s health. Private insurance companies will be given the option to carry a separate abortion coverage policy that the woman would have to pay for in addition to her regular coverage…
State senators also passed a bill on Thursday by a vote of 26 to 12 that would allow employers, doctors, nurses and pharmacists to conscientiously object to providing or paying for certain medical services, including birth control and abortion. Senate Republicans argued that the bill protects religious freedom. The Detroit Free Press reports that one Republican doctor, state Sen. Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw), broke with his party to oppose the bill.
“I don’t know how this doesn’t violate the oath I took, when I promised to resuscitate someone with TB or treat someone with AIDS,” he said.
The House is expected to consider those bills next week. In the meantime, it is expected to pass an omnibus bill that would further restrict abortion access. House Bill 5711 would regulate abortion clinics as surgical centers by imposing strict physical building requirements on them, such as minimum doorway sizes and minimum square footage. The regulations could effectively shut down some clinics in the state.
The omnibus bill also includes a provision that ends telemedicine abortions, which are commonly used by women in rural and medically under-served areas of the state. According the Groen, 21 out of 83 counties in Michigan have no local OBGYN, so telemedicine allows doctors to prescribe medication abortions to women in early stages of their pregnancies through a phone or internet consultation…
It’s worth mentioning, I think, that HB 5711 has been referred to in the press as “the nation’s most restrictive anti-abortion bill.” It’s still possible, of course, that Rick Snyder could veto these various bills, assuming they all make it through the legislature, but, given what I’m seeing play out in Lansing today, I think it’s highly unlikely that he’ll throw himself in front of the runaway train that is our Republican legislature.
For those of you who were wondering what the Republican endgame would look like, this is it… In the past week, we’ve not only seen aggressive movement against reproductive rights in Michigan, and unions, but against gay rights and public education as well. This is everything that members of the Michigan GOP have been pushing for these past thirty years, and it’s finally coming to fruition. This is their New Deal, and they’re going for it. I’d like to say that I’m surprised, but it was obvious from the start that this was what they had in mind. Here, with more on the specifics, is a comment left on the site earlier this evening by State Representative Jeff Irwin.
The Right to Work for less bills (HB 4157, 4466, 4054) were passed out of the House. The Senate will likely vote on the bills on Tuesday next week.
The language was introduced today and the bills were brought to the floor without any committee hearings. The Republicans even locked down the Capitol so that they wouldn’t have to endure the throngs of protesters.
The Republicans believe that this will improve Michigan’s economy. Those of us who look at the data know that the states with the most dymanic and successful economies are those states that invest in education and support the rights of workers. RTW states have consistently lower wages, more poverty and higher unemployment.
In 2011, Michigan Republicans devastated school funding, raiding $1.5 BILLION per year from K-12 schools and cutting higher education by 15%. Now, Michigan Republicans are eliminating the fundamental aspects of collective bargaining.
In any event, I’m still on the floor of the Michigan House, standing with Rep. Rutledge to oppose the repeated attempts by Michigan Republicans to drag down the state I love.
One more thing: the Michigan Republicans also inserted an appropriation in the bill in order to deny the citizens our right to referendum. Because of this appropriation, we cannot start a petition drive to overturn this action. This practice of inserting appropriations in controversial legislation is the surest sign that the Michigan Republicans are afraid that their actions are not supported by the voters.
Oh, and that quote at the top of the page – “workers should have freedom to choose” – is something that Snyder said this morning, when defending the decision to jam through right-to-work legislation, which, as we discussed yesterday, would essentially defund unions in our state to the point of collapse. And, as I point out at the top of the page, I think it’s wildly ironic that, immediately after sounding the death knell for unions, claiming disingenuously that it was all about protecting “freedom to choose,” those same Republicans began pushing through a stack of bills designed to rob women of that same right as it pertains to their own bodies.
Lying, fortunately, is something that these people are very adept at. My favorite recent example is the radio ad, funded by the forces of Amway tycoon Dick DeVos, which repeats, “Freedom-to-work safeguards workers’ rights to bargain collectively. Tell Lansing – protect collective bargaining and support freedom-to-work.” As there don’t appear to be any ramifications for this kind of dishonesty, I suspect that we’ll keep hearing it. I don’t have the exact quote, but, today, during Snyder’s press conference, I believe I heard him say that this right-to-work legislation was about making unions stronger. (How’s that for honesty?) And, if I’m not mistaken, no one in the press called him on it. Soon, I imagine, we’ll begin hearing radio adds assuring us that the anti-abortion omnibus package is intended to broaden access and increase options for Michigan’s women.
One last thing… I think it’s worth noting that some Democrats in Lansing are pushing back. Here, in evidence of that fact, is an incredible piece of footage of Representative Brandon Dillon, of Grand Rapids, speaking out against the Republican push to force through right-to-work legislation without debate.
Is there any hope of fighting back at this point, or is it too late? Is it possible that a general strike would help? Is it conceivable that our Democratic legislators, like their counterparts in Wisconsin, could slow this whole runaway train of horrific legislation down by leaving the state and going into hiding? Or, should we just resign ourselves to the fact that we allowed this to happen by letting our guard down, and trusting that Rick Snyder was a level-headed reformer who would never let this kind of thing take place in Michigan? Hopefully, if nothing else, this serves as a warning to other states as to just how much you can lose when you give these people an opening. Personally, though, I’m not ready to give up, and concede our place in history as a cautionary tale? At least not yet.
One last question… How do I reconcile the fact that Snyder says that we need to pass right-to-work legislation in order to create jobs in Michigan, when, every day, I receive email updates from his office, telling me that things are steadily improving, and that jobs are already being created? Was he lying before, when he said that we’d turned the corner, and that things are getting better, or is he lying now, when he says that a turnaround would be impossible without this legislation?