Bill adding abortion protections to Michigan’s civil rights act heads to Whitmer’s desk ⋆

The Michigan Legislature gave final approval Thursday to legislation barring employers in the state from retaliating against employees for getting an abortion.

Since voters approved Proposal 3 in November, which added the right to an abortion to the state constitution, the new Democratic-majority Legislature has been pushing for legislation to remove barriers to reproductive health care.

The legislation, SB 147, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign into law, would amend the state’s Civil Rights Act to protect. Currently, only abortions intended to save the life of the pregnant person are protected, meaning an employer could fire someone for having an abortion. 

The legislation closes a loophole in Michigan’s civil rights laws to reflect the interests of the state, protection of reproductive health care, bill sponsor state Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) said on the Senate floor in March before the Senate’s initial vote.

“It is necessary to ensure that this loophole is closed so that employers who are hostile to abortion believing they need to insert themselves in people’s reproductive health care decisions do not violate the state constitution,” Geiss said.

The Senate on Thursday passed the final version of the bill on a party-line 20-18 vote. 

Rep. Rachelle Smit, May 2, 2023 | Laina G. Stebbins

Several Republican representatives opposed the legislation before the House vote Wednesday, arguing it violates the religious freedoms of employers.

Private businesses around Michigan are composed of a diverse array of people with different backgrounds, many of which hold anti abortion beliefs, Rep. Rachelle Smit (R-Martin) said.

“They believe as I do, that being forced to pay for abortions and abortion pills is morally wrong,” Smit said.

Rep. Josh Schriver (R-Oxford), alongside other Republican House members, noted his own religious beliefs about abortion.

“As an ambassador for Christ, I believe in the sanctity of all human life,” Schriver said.

The bill passed the House Wednesday on a 56-52 party-line vote.

Rebecca Mastee of the Michigan Catholic Conference expressed the group’s opposition to the legislation during a March Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee meeting.

“No one should be forced to support another person’s choice to have an elective abortion financially or otherwise … a choice that is often said to be no one else’s business,” Mastee said. “This policy will be detrimental for families when employers cease offering benefits for pregnancy and maternity altogether.”

However, Planned Parenthood of Michigan Chief Medical Operating Officer Dr. Sarah Wallett said at the same March meeting that whatever goes into someone’s decision to end a pregnancy is none of their boss’ business.

“Having an abortion has no impact on somebody’s ability to perform a job. Abortion is health care period,” the physician said.

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People’s religious beliefs shouldn’t be used to impose discrimination on others, Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Twp.) said on the House floor Wednesday in support of the bill.

“This bill simply eliminates the possibility for discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or abortion. No one should lose their job or have to worry about their employment when making a decision that relates solely to their bodily autonomy,” Brabec said.

Women should not be afraid of losing their job after making what can be a difficult decision, Rep. Carrie Rheingans (D-Ann Arbor) said. 

“Health care is a human right. Reproductive health care is a woman’s right. Not being discriminated against based on your reproductive health care decisions is also a woman’s right,” Rheingans said.

authored by Anna Liz Nichols
First published at

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