Michigan lawmakers moved quickly to push an omnibus abortion bill through their lame duck session last week. Despite the massive undertaking that House Bill 5711 represents — the measure combines several of the worst attacks on women’s reproductive freedom into one 45-page piece of legislation — some GOP legislators may not have even bothered to read its full contents before making up their minds about it.
RH Reality Check flags an account from Emily Magner, who brought a group of her social work students to Lansing to discuss HB 5711 with their state legislators in late November. Magner recounts the conversation she had with state Sen. Howard Walker (R) — who ended up voting for the measure in early December — in which he admitted he initially threw his support behind the bill without reading it first:
We went on to talk specifically about how this bill will harm Michigan women, disproportionately women living in rural areas like ours. After we brought up a few of these points he put up his hands and said that he couldn’t really speak to those topics … he had not read the bill.
In front of him was a one paragraph synopsis I assume was from the Right to Life special interest organization who drafted the bill. [...]
We spoke with him for 20 minutes, the whole time he was dismissive, misinformed, and rude. When his handler told him, “5 more minutes,” I told him that I would never ask him to change his beliefs on abortion, I would protect his right to believe whatever he wanted, but I did want him to consider the harmful implications that this legislation would have on women and consider his ethical obligation to his field to leave his personal views at the door.
Before I could finish my sentence, he waved his hand dismissively and interrupted, “THIS ISN’T ABOUT WOMEN! THIS IS ABOUT PROTECTING FETUSES!”
It’s unclear whether or not Walker did have a chance to read the bill in between his November meeting with Magner and his December vote — but if he had delved a bit deeper into the legislation, he would have discovered that enacting HB 5711 would have several detrimental effects on the women in Michigan.
HB 5711 seeks to impose a host of new restrictions — such as requiring doctors to prove that mentally competent women haven’t been “coerced” into having the elective procedure, limiting abortion access for women in rural areas, and imposing unnecessary, complicated rules to regulate abortion clinics out of existence — that will ultimately hamper women’s ability to receive the health care they need. That’s why female members of Michigan’s House opposed the bill when it first came up for consideration, although their male colleagues were quick to deride them.
The measure has passed both chambers of the state legislature and now awaits Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) signature.