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Published in Health Care
BHSH System’s Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids. BHSH System’s Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids. COURTESY PHOTO

BHSH reinstates abortion policy following confusion over SCOTUS ruling

BY Sunday, June 26, 2022 09:05am

BHSH System has reinstated its policy of performing abortions in “medically necessary” situations roughly 24 hours after saying it would only do so if the mother’s life was at risk.

The announcement late Saturday night was a course shift for the largest in-state health care system after it received pushback for its response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Friday morning in Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned federal constitutional abortion protections under Roe v. Wade. 

BHSH President and CEO Tina Freese Decker reportedly told staff in a memo on Friday that the health system would follow a 1931 law that bans abortions in Michigan, later stating in a separate memo that it would do so when the mother’s life is at risk. BHSH faced swift public pushback upon reports of the staff memos.

A state judge has placed an injunction on Michigan’s 1931 law, which top state officials including — Attorney General Dana Nessel — have said still permits abortions in Michigan.

BHSH said Saturday night that “after extensive evaluation and in-depth 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 of Directors.”

Health system officials added that the legal uncertainty around abortion in Michigan is “unclear and uncertain,” and that “we are aware” of the 1931 state law. BHSH performed about 60 therapeutic, medically necessary abortions that required hospital-level care in 2021, according to the company.

“However, given the uncertainties and confusion surround its enforcement, until there is clarity, we will continue to our practice of providing abortions when medically necessary.”

BHSH urged “Michigan courts to bring clarity as quickly as possible.”

Hours after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Friday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer filed a motion urging the Michigan Supreme Court to immediately consider her lawsuit claiming a constitutional right to an abortion under the due process clause of Michigan’s constition. Michigan’s 1931 law criminalizes abortion without exceptions for rape or incest.

A state Court of Claims judge has placed an injunction on the 1931 law under a separate suit by Planned Parenthood of Michigan, temporarily blocking the abortion ban. The GOP-led state House and Senate have sought to intervene in the case to reverse the injunction.

BHSH officials signaled on Saturday that such reproductive health decisions should be made between patients and their doctor.

“We continue to believe that these decisions are both personal and private and best made between a woman and her physician,” according to BHSH’s latest statement. “We continue to provide care for women’s health, including reproductive needs. We will support our physicians and patients through a multidisciplinary, local committee as they navigate this challenging landscape.”

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