Lansing Update: A Silver Lining for Religious Conscience Rights in Recent Supreme Court Ruling

Healthcare Provider Conscience Rights Upheld Within Abortion Pill Supreme Court Ruling

While a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing continued widespread access to abortion pills is disappointing, there was one silver lining in the unanimous opinion pertaining to the protection of conscience rights of healthcare providers.

As part of the opinion handed down from the court this week, it was stated that “Federal conscience laws definitively protect doctors from being required to perform abortions or to provide other treatment that violates their consciences. Federal law protects doctors from repercussions when they have ‘refused’ to participate in an abortion.”

MCC expressed gratitude for “the Court’s unanimous affirmation within the decision supporting federal conscience laws and their rightful place in health care policy. No person should be required either to participate in an abortion against their conscience nor should a pharmacist or other employee be required to distribute an abortion-inducing drug as it is taking the life of an unborn child.”

However, the ruling was a setback in that it will continue to allow widespread availability of chemical abortion drugs, despite the risks posed to women and girls who use them.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) illustrated these risks in a statement on the case a few months ago, when it said that the federal Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) “diminishing safety standards in recent years means that a woman, for example, can now be led to order a chemical abortion pill online without seeing a doctor in person to make sure that she does not have a complicating condition and that she has not been pregnant for longer than the approved ten-week limit.”

In a statement released in response to the ruling this week, the USCCB said that the “Court ruling on procedural grounds will continue to put the health of women and girls at risk. As the USCCB’s pro-life chairman has said, abortion is not health care. The Church will continue to advocate for women’s health and safety, and to lovingly serve mothers in need.”

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Bill Protecting Foster Children’s Benefits Advances to Senate Floor

A bill to stop the state from using foster care benefits to offset the cost of their care is headed to the Senate floor after receiving support from a Senate committee this week.

Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) is supporting Senate Bill 872, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), which will ensure any benefits foster children receive are not intercepted by the state and used to pay for the costs of caring for the children. These can include certain federal benefits like Social Security or Supplemental Security Income, or benefits tied to being a survivor of a veteran.

Michigan is one of several states that had adopted this practice decades ago due to budgetary constraints. The legislation would instead require the state to hold any benefits foster children are entitled to in secure accounts for them to access after they leave state care. That money could then be helpful to assisting foster children get on stable economic footing.

The bill advanced from the Senate Housing and Human Services Committee on a 9-0 bipartisan vote with two abstentions and is now on the Senate floor for further consideration.

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Package Protecting Mobile Home Park Residents From Injustices Approved by Committee

A package to protect mobile home residents from unjust rent increases or unnecessary utility charges was voted to the Senate floor this week after having been previously supported by MCC.

Overall, Senate Bills 486-490 would strengthen state oversight of, and improve accountability for mobile home park owners with the goal of protecting the lower-income park residents from unfair practices. The legislation is also intended to preserve mobile home ownership as an affordable housing option amidst the state’s crunch in housing supply. For these reasons, MCC is offering support for this bill package.

Under the bills, mobile home park owners would be prohibited from engaging in unfair or deceptive practices such as charging more for utilities than what the utility is charging, mandating exclusive rent payments, or charging unrelated fees for reasonable health and safety costs, according to an analysis of the legislation.

The package also allows the state to license and inspect mobile home parks and allows mobile home park owners to seek approval for rent increases from a state commission charged with overseeing the parks.

The five-bill package cleared the Senate Housing and Human Services Committee this week and is now on the Senate floor for further consideration.

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Legislation Ending Punitive Fee on Driver’s License Reinstatements Clears House Panel

Legislation to end the collection of a $125 driver’s license reinstatement fee from drivers who failed to pay a now-defunct fee was approved by a House committee this week with MCC support.

The Legislature stopped the collection of driver responsibility fees a few years back due to their punitive nature on the poor. As part of the repeal, the law also ended the obligation to pay back any outstanding fees.

However, the $125 driver’s license reinstatement fee for anyone who lost their driver’s license for failing to pay the driver responsibility fees is still on the books. Senate Bills 706 and 799, sponsored by Sen. Veronica Klinefelt (D-Eastpointe) would correct that.

MCC supports this legislation to help improve access to driver’s licenses, which are essential for daily life in Michigan.

The legislation has already cleared the Senate on a 36-0 vote, and after receiving approval from the House Transportation, Mobility, and Infrastructure Committee this week, it heads to the House floor for consideration.

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