DETROIT — Although abortion remains legal in Michigan, access to surgical procedures is declining and forcing patients to drive farther to get one — in some cases to neighboring states.
When Michigan voters approved Proposal 3 last year in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, reproductive rights activists celebrated. The proposal enshrined in the state constitution the “fundamental right to reproductive freedom,” including decisions on pregnancy, contraception and abortion.
Next year, when Michigan’s Reproductive Health Act is set to take effect, repealing several restrictions on abortion providers, the procedure will have more protection in the state than perhaps ever before.
But significant hurdles to abortion access in Michigan remain, particularly for those seeking surgical procedures, as opposed to a doctor-prescribed pill. As more surgical clinics close throughout the state for myriad reasons, patients must drive longer distances for the procedure, especially outside of Metro Detroit.
Grand Rapids' sole surgical abortion facility closed earlier this year, leaving Kalamazoo as the closest option, and women up north or in the Upper Peninsula are driving out of state to cities like Milwaukee or Duluth, The Detroit News found. There are no clinics north of Saginaw dedicated to offering procedural abortions, otherwise known as surgical abortions, in the state, reproductive rights advocates said.
In Michigan, the number of procedural abortions has fallen in recent years as abortion pills — known as medical abortions — become more common. In 2022, less than 41% of abortions were procedural, a plunge from even 10 years prior when 73.6% of abortions were surgical. But the 41% represents more than 12,000 cases across the state.
Statewide, the number of abortions in Michigan has been steadily increasing since 2016. In 2022, it reached its highest number in more than 25 years.
“There’s a question about choice. People will say they’re pro-choice, but … regardless of legality, there is no choice if you don’t have access,” said Jex Blackmore, director and organizer of the Hydra Fund, a Michigan-based mutual aid fund that focuses on reproductive care. “If you live in a rural area or can’t afford to drop $1,000 essentially on the fly, there isn’t really a choice.”
Is access difficulty really new?
Abortion is a state-level decision since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the decision last year in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that effectively overturned the nationwide policy of legal abortion set by Roe v. Wade.
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