Michigan’s largest health system reverses stance on abortion

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After a series of mixed messages, Michigan’s largest health care system officially reversed its stance on abortion late Saturday, saying it will continue its practice of offering abortions when medically necessary.

The BHSH System posts came after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade Friday. The health system initially said it would follow the guidelines of Michigan’s abortion law of 1931 – which is currently unenforceable under a temporary injunction – and would only allow termination of pregnancy when it is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant person.

Hours later on Friday, BHSH System President and CEO Tina Freese Decker sent a second message to employees to provide “additional clarity,” saying “we will continue to provide high-quality reproductive care to all the women of Michigan”. Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health have historically performed abortions when the mother’s life was in danger and BHSH System will continue to do so. »

Late Saturday night, the health system announced it was restoring its practices for terminating pregnancies when medically necessary.

“After careful evaluation and discussion, and always using compassion as our guide, we have evolved our approach. We continue to have the full support of the BHSH System Board.

“At this time, the current legal landscape regarding abortion in our state is unclear and uncertain. We are aware of Michigan’s 1931 law. However, given the uncertainties and confusion surrounding its application, until until there is clarity, we will continue our practice of providing abortions when medically necessary,” the update read.

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The health system said it continues to believe that “these decisions are both personal and private and are best made between a woman and her doctor.” He said about 60 medically necessary therapeutic abortions requiring hospital care were performed last year in the BHSH system.

The system is a merger of Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health and Beaumont Health, which serves southeast Michigan.

“We do not and will not perform elective abortions. We continue to provide care for women’s health, including reproductive needs. We will support our physicians and patients through a local multidisciplinary committee as they navigate this challenging landscape,” the statement read.

“We urge the Michigan courts to provide clarification as soon as possible.”

Nina Ledesma of Detroit holds up her sign and sings as abortion rights protesters march through downtown Detroit following a rally at the Theodore Levin Federal Court Building in Detroit to protest against the United States Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v.  Wade on June 24, 2022.

The health system update was sent to all employees and posted on the Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health websites, BHSH system spokesperson Mark Geary said. When asked why the healthcare system had reversed course, he referred to the statement.

Despite Roe’s reversal, abortion remains legal in Michigan – for now – due to a temporary restraining injunction enforcing state law that prohibits it in all cases except for save the life of the pregnant person.

It’s unclear where the courts will take the issue in Michigan, leaving healthcare systems, including the BHSH system, struggling with an uncertain legal landscape.

In the first message to employees obtained by the Free Press on Friday, Freese Decker said: “Previously, BHSH System policies and procedures generally permitted termination of pregnancy for medical indications, such as when necessary to prevent health risks. serious for the woman’s health or in situations where the fetus is unlikely to survive.

“With the Supreme Court’s decision, BHSH System’s new policy and practices will follow the guidelines of the 1931 Michigan statute and only permit termination of pregnancy when necessary to preserve the woman’s life. .”

On Twitter and in an emailed statement after 10 p.m. Friday, U.S. Representative Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, called on BHSH System “to rescind this policy immediately, to continue allowing their providers to give patients the health care to which they are entitled under applicable law, and not to circumvent the courts.

Andy Levin will represent Michigan's 9th seat in Congress.

“Let’s be very clear: Abortion is still legal in Michigan. Judge Elizabeth Gleicher granted a preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the 1931 law if Roe v. Wade was canceled,” House Pro-Choice Caucus member Levin said. “Yet the very day the Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which overruled Roe, BHSH System sent a message to all staff saying the entire system would now follow the 1931 law.”

Late Saturday night, Levin said on Twitter, “I’m grateful that Beaumont-Spectrum has reversed course. We must continue to make it clear that abortion services remain legal and available in Michigan, and I encourage healthcare providers to provide pregnant women with the full range of reproductive services”.

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The United States Supreme Court building is seen through a temporary security fence June 23, 2022 in Washington, DC.  Rulings are expected in nine other cases before the end of the Court's current session, with some activists awaiting a much-anticipated ruling on the potential quashing of Roe v Wade.

Other health systems are also making decisions or discussions based on the new legal landscape following Roe’s cancellation.

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Michigan Medicine said on its Facebook page on Friday that it would continue to offer reproductive services, including abortion care. He said he mainly provided abortions to patients who needed hospital care.

“Many of the patients we see are diagnosed with fetal abnormalities or experience other complications that make ongoing pregnancy and childbirth unsafe, or they have serious underlying illnesses or other needs that make care impossible. abortion in an outpatient facility,” he said. “Our commitment is to be there for those who need the specialized care we can provide.”

Henry Ford Health said in a statement that as healthcare providers “we have an unwavering commitment to the health and well-being of those we serve, and a responsibility to approach this issue through the lens what is in the best medical interests of our future patients and their families.

“Sometimes these patients are faced with heartbreakingly complex, even life-threatening scenarios, and they look to us as trusted health advisors to guide them – or, at times, save them – through our capabilities in medicine. While we comply with whatever laws come from the overturning of Roe v. Wade, our unwavering dedication to supporting people through their health journey remains.

Contact Christina Hall: [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @challreporter.

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