On Dec. 11, the same day Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a law protecting abortion rights in the state, the Texas Supreme Court ruled against a Dallas woman’s petition to receive emergency abortion care, forcing her to travel out of the state for the procedure.
Whitmer signed into law the last piece of the Reproductive Health Act, a package of legislation that protects reproductive health care. House Bill 4949 repeals Act 182 of 2013, called the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act, which forced Michiganders to purchase a separate rider in their health insurance if they wanted coverage of abortion care, even to cover the procedure in cases of rape.
“The bill we were debating at the time would have forced me to buy insurance for my own rape before it happened or to bear the child of my attacker. Ten years ago today, I gave that speech, and it didn’t change a single vote on the Senate floor,” Whitmer said, according to CBS News. “Today, exactly 10 years later, I’m honored to stand here as the governor and sign the repeal of that awful law.”
The legislation codifies the right to abortion in the state Constitution, giving patients the right to sue any individual or entity in the state if that right is violated.
Dr. Sarah Wallett, chief medical operating officer of Planned Parenthood of Michigan, praised the bill’s passage in a Nov. 2 statement.
“Every single day, I see patients who have struggled to pull together needed funds because Medicaid won’t cover their care. Every single day, we have to cancel and reschedule appointments because of insignificant clerical errors in state-mandated paperwork. This is not reproductive freedom,” Wallett said.
In November, 20 weeks into her pregnancy, Kate Cox, a Dallas mother of two, learned that the fetus she was carrying had trisomy 18, also known as Edwards syndrome, a rare genetic condition that is fatal for more than 90% of infants either immediately after birth or within their first year of life. Doctors recommended she obtain an abortion in order to preserve her fertility and protect her health. On Dec. 5, Cox filed a lawsuit in the District Court of Travis County, Texas, against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to obtain an emergency court order to allow her to have her pregnancy terminated despite Texas’ ban on abortion.
Texas’ law offers few exceptions to its ban. Abortion is legal only to save the life of the pregnant person or to prevent the person from suffering “substantial impairment of major bodily function.”
The Supreme Court’s unsigned opinion stated: “Any parents would be devastated to learn of their unborn child’s trisomy 18 diagnosis. Some difficulties in pregnancy, however, even serious ones, do not pose the heightened risks to the mother the exception encompasses.”
Nancy Northup, chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, the organization representing Cox in her lawsuit, said: “Abortion bans are dangerous for pregnant people, and exceptions don’t work. … She desperately wanted to be able to get care where she lives and recover at home surrounded by family. While Kate had the ability to leave the state, most people do not, and a situation like this could be a death sentence.”