Lansing Update: Crucial Limits on Abortion Would Remain Law Under House-Passed Version of RHA

‘A Contract for a Human Being’: MCC Makes Case Against Legalized Surrogacy Contracts

A House committee this week approved sweeping changes to Michigan’s family and parentage laws despite Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) expressing concerns that legalizing surrogacy contracts and compensation commercializes the buying and selling of children.

Rebecca Mastee, policy advocate for MCC, testifies against legislation that would legalize surrogacy contracts in Michigan during the House Judiciary Committee this week.

Surrogacy is the practice of arranging for a woman to carry a child for another person or people seeking to have children and is legal in Michigan. However, the practice of contracting with a surrogate mother is not, which would change under this fast-moving legislation.

MCC opposed House Bills 5207–5215 in verbal testimony delivered to the House Judiciary Committee, arguing that the legalization of surrogacy contracts inherently involves the commodification of children and the exploitation of often vulnerable women.

MCC, along with Right to Life (RTL) of Michigan, shared actual examples of this exploitation taking place in disturbing scenarios both in the U.S. and internationally, including a case where two prominent surrogacy attorneys in California were criminally convicted for selling babies. They created a “baby-selling ring” and deceived both the courts and prospective parents. With the use of surrogates, they amassed an inventory of unborn babies which they sold for over $100,000 each.

Abroad, MCC noted that the European Union in 2015 adopted a resolution advising that surrogacy be prohibited and that the practice undermines “the human dignity of the woman since her body and its reproductive functions are used as a commodity.”

MCC’s testimony also mentioned emerging evidence that has shown more complicated pregnancies occur in surrogate pregnancies than with non-surrogate pregnancies, which poses a threat to both the life and the health of the surrogate mother and the baby.

“This bill package opens Michigan to commercialized surrogacy — reproductive commerce,” said Rebecca Mastee, policy advocate for MCC, in her testimony to the committee. “Let us not lose sight that at the core of such agreements is a contract for a human being.”

Mastee also highlighted another aspect of the legislation that would allow an unspecified number of individuals — with no guidelines for their relationship — to contract to intentionally create a child. In other words, as the bill is currently drafted, essentially any two or more persons could agree to parent a child through assisted reproduction or a surrogacy contract, regardless of the individuals’ relationships to each other or to the child.

MCC noted this diverts from the norm in Michigan law that finds parentage through birth, genetics, or adoption by a married couple or a single individual.

Over the course of one week, the nine-bill package was introduced for the first time, received an initial hearing with no opposing viewpoints in testimony, and was voted to the House floor at the end of a second hearing on a largely party-line vote, with two Republicans passing on the vote while all other Republicans on the panel voted no.

MCC will continue to work with lawmakers to share its concerns about why this legislation poses a threat to the dignity of women and children in this state.

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Crucial Abortion Limits Preserved After House Action on RHA Bills

A divided House approved bills that make up the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) in a late-night session this week, but notably left behind attempts to repeal the required 24-hour waiting period and the requirement to determine if women are being coerced into an abortion.

In addition to those key pieces not taken up by the House Democratic majority, neither the House nor Senate have moved bills that would end protections for taxpayers against paying for abortions through Medicaid.

If the RHA bills that passed the House this week get signed by the Governor, the state’s 24-hour waiting period, informed consent provisions, coercion screening requirements, Medicaid-funded abortion ban and parental consent requirement for minor abortions would still be in place and law in Michigan.

Unfortunately, the legislative majority in the House did sign off on ending state licensing and inspection standards for abortion clinics, to the detriment of the health and safety of women. The House’s RHA bills that moved forward also repeal a ban on the gruesome, late-term partial birth abortion procedure.

The legislation likely headed to the Governor also cuts out protections for employees from having to pay for their coworkers’ abortions through employer health insurance plans with repeal of the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act of 2013.

The RHA bills approved by the House need to clear the Senate before they land on the Governor’s desk. The Senate has already taken votes on similar RHA policies and passed them on strict party lines like the House, although the Senate bills did not repeal the ban on partial birth abortion. Which policies the final bills will repeal remains to be seen, although it is expected that Governor Whitmer will sign the legislation into law.

It should be noted that the projected final product marks a vast departure from what abortion advocates had originally put on the table. That repealing parental consent was never included in the introduced legislative package, and that other pieces were dropped along the way, is a testament to the work done by the pro-life statewide coalition that included MCC to share with lawmakers the problems with the legislation.

Besides the health and safety concerns, MCC and other partners provided polling to lawmakers and the public that consistently showed most Michigan voters support keeping basic safety limits in place for abortion providers.

Members of the Catholic Advocacy Network (CAN) like you also played an integral role in keeping pressure on all lawmakers by responding to MCC’s action alert and sending more than 6,000 messages to elected officials urging them to vote no, making this grassroots campaign against the RHA the second most-prolific campaign ever in terms of CAN member participation.

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Crackdown on Church Vandalism Continues Moving Through Legislature

People who attack or damage churches or other places of worship would face harsher penalties under bills that continue to move through the Legislature.

The Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee this week signed off on House Bills 4476 and 4477. The legislation has cleared the House already and moves to the Senate for a final vote before the Governor considers signing the bills into law.

The legislation would make a person guilty of institutional desecration if the person intentionally damaged or threatened to damage a specified institution because of the institution’s association with an individual or group of individuals who may have a common identity or attribute. This would include religious houses of worship or other facilities connected to those institutions.

MCC has supported the legislation and has shared with lawmakers the eight documented instances of targeted attacks on Michigan Catholic institutions and facilities in recent years, in addition to the nearly 300 attacks on Catholic entities nationwide, as documented by the U.S. bishops.

The legislation determines the severity of the criminal penalties on the financial cost of the damage incurred as well as the offender’s prior convictions. Causing more than $1,000 but less than $20,000 in damage with no prior convictions is a felony offense that could result in up to five years’ imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $10,000 or three times the amount of the destruction or injury, whichever was greater.

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Protections for Vulnerable Adults Unanimously Advance to Senate Floor

Legislation to protect vulnerable adults from exploitation and abuse took another step forward this week when a Senate committee approved the MCC-backed bills.

From left, front row: Allie Hayes, whose story inspired the vulnerable adults legislation; and her sister Eileen Hayes. In the back row, from left: Paul Stankewitz, policy advocate for MCC; Mark and Dawn Hayes, parents of Allie; and Matt Dargay, legislative aide to bill sponsor Rep. Sharon MacDonell.

Together, House Bills 4320 and 4387 prohibits a person from intentionally or knowingly coercing, compelling, or exploiting a vulnerable adult in a way that causes the vulnerable adult to provide sexually explicit visual material to that person or any other person.

The legislation received unanimous support from the Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee this week and heads next to the Senate floor.

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Lawmakers Adopt $50m for Safe Water in Schools

A supplemental spending bill unveiled and subsequently approved by lawmakers this week would help fund the installation of filtered water fountains in public and nonpublic schools, particularly those in areas of need.

The $50 million proposed in a mid-year school spending bill would help schools fulfill the newly enacted requirements to ensure drinking water is safe and clean in schools and daycares. MCC supported the “filter-first” legislation in the run-up to it being signed by the Governor earlier this year.

MCC is thankful the Legislature followed up on its commitment to fund the installation of drinking water stations and filters to help schools meet the requirements, and that nonpublic schools were also made eligible for the funding.

The water filter funds were contained within House Bill 4292, which was approved by both legislative chambers this week and is on its way to the Governor for her signature.

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First Ever Michigan March for Life Is Next Wednesday, November 8

Thousands of people are expected on the state Capitol grounds next Wednesday for the first-ever Michigan March for Life — will you be among those who show up to support the cause for human life?

November 8, 2023: Michigan March for Life

The day begins with a Mass for Life at 9:30 a.m. celebrated by Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea at St. Mary Cathedral near the Capitol in downtown Lansing.

At 10 a.m., a pre-rally worship concert will take place at the steps of the Capitol, followed by the rally at 11 a.m. and the march itself at noon. The event will conclude by 1 p.m.

For information about parking, buses, and the march route, click or tap here.

For those who cannot be there, you can follow along with the events on social media by searching for the #MiMarchforLife tags on Facebook, X, and Instagram. You can follow MCC’s social media channels for updates as well.

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