Legislature Says Planned Parenthood’s Abortion-Ban Challenge ‘Premature’

Lansing Lines appears with cooperation from MIRS, a Lansing-based news and information service.

The Michigan Legislature asked a Court of Claims judge to dismiss Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit challenging the state’s abortion-ban law.

The filing says Planned Parenthood’s claims are “premature” because they “are based on a series of hypotheticals” and the relevant statute, MCL 750.14, “is not being enforced, and plaintiffs do not claim that there are any concrete threats of enforcement.”

“No state authority has sought to enforce the statute at issue here, making plaintiffs’ claims unripe,” the court brief from Nicholas Miller, of Washington, D.C.-based Schaeer-Jaffe LLP, reads on behalf of the Legislature. “First, Michigan’s statute cannot be used to prosecute pregnant women. … Second, there are … no pending prosecutions or threatened prosecutions of any abortion provider under MCL 750.14.”

The Legislature also argues Planned Parenthood lacks standing.

Some prosecutors have said they will prosecute the law if violated, which the Legislature argues is irrelevant to Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit, in part, because the prosecutors are not parties to the lawsuit.

The only prosecutor – and only defendant – on the case, Attorney General Dana Nessel, has repeatedly said she will not prosecute Michigan’s abortion-ban law.

Planned Parenthood filed its suit in April, the same day Gov. Gretchen Whitmer filed a suit in Oakland County Circuit Court against county prosecutors as well as an executive message with the Michigan Supreme Court. Both of Whitmer’s suits are pending.

The suits were filed in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, which came to fruition in June.

In May, Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher granted Planned Parenthood’s request for a preliminary injunction stopping the enforcement of MCL 750.14.

The Legislature successfully intervened as defendants.

Two pro-life organizations and two county prosecutors, who are defendants in Whitmer’s lawsuit, are challenging Gleicher’s ruling in the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Gov Wants Over-The-Counter Birth Control, Poll Shows Abortion Ban Opposition

With the future of Michigan’s abortion law hanging in the balance, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer expanded her call for contraceptive access to include making birth control available over the counter.

In a letter to President Joe Biden, Whitmer requested that he expand his Executive Order on Protecting Access to Reproductive Healthcare Services to include contraceptives without a prescription.

Biden’s current executive order condemning the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade requires the Department of Health and Human Services to submit a report identifying potential action to expand abortion access.

It also requests the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Attorney General address threats to patient privacy, and create a task force on Reproductive Heathcare Access.

Whitmer said expanding the order and approving over-the-counter birth control would further safeguard access to healthcare services, “and it could be done by the Food and Drug Administration without need for further action from Congress.”
She referenced a new application with the FDA by HRA Pharma, a company with “roots in Michigan” to do just that. The company, which is owned by Allegan-based Perrigo, submitted its application to convert Opill, a progesterone-only birth control, to over-the-counter.

Whitmer said requiring prescriptions creates a barrier to access for the nearly 2.2 million Michigan women of reproductive age, especially affecting communities of color with limited access to contraception.

According to Power to Decide, a campaign seeking to reduce unplanned pregnancy, 629,080 women in Michigan live in “reproductive deserts,” or areas with limited access to health centers with contraceptive options.

Of those, 79,560 women live in counties without a single health center providing options.

Whitmer said nearly three dozen medical associations, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians, support FDA review of over-the-counter status.

And she referenced a June poll by Data For Progress which found 71% of people support expanding access to birth control to over the counter.

Another poll, conducted July 5 and 6 by Public Policy Polling (PPP) for Progress Michigan, found 53% of respondents opposed the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, while 38% supported it. The final 9% were unsure.

The survey of 672 voters also found that 58% of respondents supported overturning the state’s 1931 abortion ban, with 28% wishing to keep the law in place and 14% undecided.

Lonnie Scott, the executive director of Progress Michigan, said the poll reaffirmed that advocates against abortion access are “just a vocal minority.”

Whitmer urged the Biden Administration to “act now. In light of the renewed assault on women’s reproductive freedom, there is no time to lose.”

Right to Life Michigan continues to fight against the injunction on the 1931 law banning abortion, but the group has not taken an official position on contraception, said legislative director Genevieve Marnon.

MDHHS Offers Free Tests For At-Risk Communities As Variants Cause COVID Rise

The Department of Health and Human Services announced Michigan residents in at-risk communities can get one free COVID-19 test, on top of the federal tests, in July and August as cases are rising.

MDHHS officials announced 16,681 new cases and 160 new deaths of the virus over a seven-day period. The number of cases is the highest seen in July, with the average daily count sitting at 2,383. The department started releasing the virus numbers on Tuesdays.

“Testing remains both a critical and helpful tool in managing the spread of COVID-19 and ensuring our loved ones and neighbors don’t get infected,” Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian said.

Bagdasarian said she was grateful to the Rockefeller Foundation for providing the funds to provide 300,000 tests to 60,000 households.

Eligible people in vulnerable communities can order the kits with five free tests through AccessCovidTests.org.

Tests are also available at libraries across the state to provide at-home testing.

PBS Newshour reported the White House issued a warning as a new COVID variant is rapidly spreading across the country.

The BA.4 and BA.5 omicron variants are responsible for doubling the number of hospitalizations and vaccines are recommended.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard reports that 67.5% of all Michiganders have received at least one dose of the vaccine as of July 5.

Whitmer, DHHS Clarify Difference Between Plan B, Abortion Pills

The governor and the state’s health department are rolling out a public effort to clarify the difference between emergency contraception – consisting of multiple over-the-counter brands to keep a pregnancy from potentially developing – and medication abortion.

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade – the once historic case safeguarding abortion access on the federal level – one question found its way into several conversations regarding the new post-Roe era: “what is the difference between Plan B and abortion pills?”

In 2015, emergency contraception had been used by 23% of sexually experienced women 15 to 44 years-old in the United States – according to one report available on ScienceDirect.

An over-the-counter pill of levonorgestrel, known as the “morning after pill,” could include Plan B One-Step, Take Action, My Way and Option 2. According to Planned Parenthood, the pills perform best when taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex or when contraception methods fail.

In a press release submitted today, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the fall of Roe v. Wade has left many individuals with questions about their access to health care. This confusion could be especially relevant as Michigan’s 1931 manslaughter ban on abortion remains held down by a temporary injunction.

Although abortion continues to be available in Michigan, Whitmer said “to make matters worse, some may take advantage of this moment to create confusion about the important differences between emergency contraception and medication abortion, which are completely different medications used for entirely different purposes.”

“That’s why we’re launching a new public effort, giving women and families the best, most accurate information about these medications,” Whitmer said in the press release. “It’s critical we use every avenue we can to give women access to the full range of reproductive health care, and accurate information while some push misinformation.”

In a flier distributed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the department explains that emergency contraception is used to stop a pregnancy before it starts, while abortion pills like Mifepristone and Misoprostol are utilized to end an early pregnancy.

Heavy Focus On Mental Health In School Safety Recommendations

A special nine-person commission would be created to improve the mental health of school-age students and additional staff would be hired at schools to ensure school safety as part of reforms suggested by a bi-partisan House task force.

The panel co-chaired by Rep. Luke Meerman (R-Polkton Twp.) and Scott VanSingel (R-Grant) is also recommending standardized school safety definitions and building guidance for new schools.

The House School Safety Task Force is recommending 10 bi-partisan bills that address school shootings without tackling the contentious issue of gun control.

“The task force wisely decided on policy ideas that we could get done together,” VanSingel said. “Keeping our kids safe isn’t something to politicize.”

The plan also includes school and security training for school staff and active shooter drills run in partnership by the local police department.

A product of the last year’s Oxford High School shooting, the task force worked six months to come up with such ideas such as adding OK2Say contact information to school ID cards.

So, many may conclude that the conversation about controls is over.

Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi), one of the key Democrats on the panel, said the discussion is not over and she is “optimistic” that over time, she, Meerman and VanSingel can possibly find some common ground on other issues. They are the GOP co-chairs of the task force.

“We have had extremely candid and honest conversations,” she reported in a very upbeat tone, adding as she is thankful for their willingness to continue the talks and “the issuance of the report does mean the game is over.”

She is very pleased that the recently enacted state budget include dollars for mental health and making school buildings safer, but she contends “not everything that we have learned” about this issue was included in the final work product.

Breen said she fears that a parent not familiar with the political process might read the report and “will have no idea what this all means.”

The first-term Novi Democrat wants to address how to “encounter violence and how to recover from violence” and is hoping for a supplemental bill that would also fund two additional ISD employees, including an emergency coordinator and and emergency mental health school resource along with the so-called Smart Apprentice program.

“I am a little bit relentless on this,” she said as she looks for more constructive talks with the two GOP co-chairs, who she respects as the work continues.