Whitmer eyes repealing anti-abortion restrictions, boosting 'Obamacare' access next session

Abortion, energy, and health care. Those are three of the issues that Michigan's governor will push for more reforms on during a policy address she'll deliver on Wednesday.

Gretchen Whitmer's "What's Next Address" will include calls for further removing hurdles to abortion access like waiting periods and insurance restrictions, as well as codifying the Affordable Care Act and including protections for pre-existing conditions.

Riding a wave of election wins last November that gave Democrats control of the House and Senate, the legislature used majorities in 2023 to expand civil rights protections for LGBTQ groups, repeal Michigan's 1931-era abortion ban, and bolster gun safety laws.

Whitmer hopes to add to that progress after the Labor Day holiday when the legislature reconvenes in the fall.

"The governor will deliver her ‘What’s Next Address’ to outline policy priorities for this fall’s legislative agenda and build on work to lower costs, make Michigan more competitive, improve energy efficiency, expand opportunity, and protect people’s fundamental rights," read a statement from Press Secretary Stacey LaRouche. "She looks forward to sharing more on Wednesday."

While the governor's office declined to get into specifics, energy efficiency and transitioning away from fossil fuels would be likely candidates for Whitmer to target. Hundreds of thousands of residents lost power after another round of severe weather last week that prompted outages that lasted days. 

Abortion was among the top issues that drove voters to the polls during the 2022 midterms. Democrats used the issue heavily during campaigns. It was also a ballot proposal that passed with a large majority that enshrined the procedure in the state constitution.

Advocacy groups like Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and Michigan Voices are working with lawmakers at further expanding access to abortion.

"Planned Parenthood staff is excited to expand patient health and patient need without jumping over medically unnecessary governmental red tape that is frankly insulting and harmful to patients," said Ashlea Phenice, vice president of communications at Planned Parenthood of Michigan.

Phenice said 40 years of anti-abortion laws intended to limit access to the procedure have built up in the state, and it is now time to "align Michigan laws with the will of Michigan voters."

Prop 3 passed by 12 points during the midterms. 

Among the hurdles that groups have been in talks of repealing include TRAP Laws or Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers. Clinics that offer abortions are required to have certain ceiling heights and hallway gaps that have "nothing to do with providing abortions" Phenice said.

There are also efforts of repealing a mandated 24-hour waiting period to receive an abortion and removing restrictions on insurance coverage for individuals with lower incomes. 

The state has also seen out-of-state visits to Michigan for abortions triple since the U.S. Supreme Court repealed Roe V. Wade. Removing hurdles would accommodate the additional traffic.

In addition to reproductive health care, portions of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, are also part of the governor's wish list. 

Whitmer wants to make the federal health care law legal in the state. That includes adding protections for pre-existing conditions, so insurance companies can't charge people more for cancer and diabetes diagnoses. 

Other provisions like allowing people to stay on their parent's insurance until they're 26 years old, banning a cap on the care one can receive, and requiring all insurance plans to cover essential services such as ambulance services, birth control, maternity care, mental health, substance abuse treatment, and preventative care. 

First reported in the Associated Press, states have added similar protections over the years even as the ACA has faced federal lawsuits. 

A version of Whitmer's proposal has already cleared the Michigan House, but was never introduced in the Senate.