Detroit Democrat a 'no' vote on repealing abortion restrictions in Michigan

A Detroit Democrat said she would vote no on several abortion-related bills that are part of the party's latest push to expand access to the procedure in Michigan.

Rep. Karen Whitsett said she did not support legislation that would allow people to use Medicaid to pay for abortions, saying the state had an "unbreakable moral obligation" to direct those funds toward caring for elderly residents. 

"I was elected to be a voice for those who have earned the right to be heard. The elderly, poor, and infirm will always have my voice and my vote. I refuse to turn my back on them. The choice is simple - we can either fund essential care for seniors or fund elective abortions. I chose our elders today," she said in a statement.

She also opposes repealing the 24-hour waiting period for receiving an abortion and repealing certain regulations that govern clinics that offer the procedure.

Whitsett's no vote could doom the party's efforts to further expand abortion access in Michigan due Democrat's razor-thin majority in the state House. After the state enshrined the procedure in the constitution during a midterm ballot proposal in 2022, the party sought to use their leverage in state government to repeal Michigan's abortion ban earlier in the spring.

During the fall legislative schedule this year, Democrats introduced 11 bills that would further remove hurdles to getting an abortion.

Here are the abortion restrictions Democrats are targeting for the next session

HB 4949-4959 would repeal TRAP laws - Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers - the mandated 24-hour waiting period on getting an abortion, and restrictions on insurance coverage paying for the procedure.

Over the summer, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer emphasized in her "What's Next" address that reproductive health, energy, and other health care laws would be part of her next push in the government.

On Wednesday, lawmakers discussed the 11-bill package in the Health Policy Committee. Whitsett, who sits on the committee, said she would be a no vote on the bills. Democrats would need all 56 of its members to approve the bills, or risk failing to pass them without support from Republicans.

In a post on social media, the political advocacy arm of Planned Parenthood in Michigan chastised the lawmaker. 

"Every time someone must drive over 7 hours to access abortion, has to reschedule their appointment over a timestamp, or worries over how they will pay, Rep. Whitsett will be responsible," said Michigan Planned Parenthood Advocates. "These actions are a betrayal to her constituents, who overwhelmingly voted YES on Prop 3."