Human Rights

Not Just Union-Busting: 4 Other Terrible Things Michigan Republicans Did in the Lame Duck

GOP-backed anti-worker and anti-women's rights bills were all over the agenda.

Michigan unionists packed the rotunda of the state Capitol in Lansing yesterday but the House passed a right to work bill. Protests continue today.
Photo Credit: AFT Michigan

We’ve heard a lot about the union-busting bill that passed in Michigan earlier this week, and for good reason: it was a surprise to almost everyone that the odious bill came up in the lame-duck state legislative session, and a great turnout by protesters ensured that news cameras were watching.

However, several other nasty legislative items slipped through with barely a peep from the media. Want to know what else the Michigan legislature was up to recently? We've run it down.

1. Doctors can refuse healthcare for women if they feel like it

Don't let big tech control what news you see. Get more stories like this in your inbox, every day.

Under the “Religious Liberty and Conscience Protection Act,” which passed last week, “[h]ealth care providers could refuse to perform certain medical procedures, and employers could opt not to provide coverage for certain medical services as a matter of conscience,” reports.

The Republican-supported bill goes beyond a 1978 state law allowing medical professionals and institutions to refuse to perform abortions based on their “conscience”; it extends to contraception and “other services and medications that they oppose as a matter of conscience” as well.

2. Ridiculous anti-sharia bill introduced

Never mind that sharia law is not, has never been, and will never be a threat in Michigan – that didn’t stop state Republicans from introducing a bill to stop “foreign laws that would impair constitutional rights,” according to the Detroit Free Press.

The bill, which was on the agenda for the last day of the session but does not appear to have been passed, doesn’t use the word “sharia,” though it is clear what the bill is all about. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has described it as an “anti-Islam” bill that is “among those that seek to impose government-sanctioned discrimination on followers of a minority faith.” Indeed, it is similar to bills introduced in states like Oklahoma and Florida in recent years.

3. Another anti-union law on the books

As if the right-to-work-for-less bill wasn’t enough, Michigan Republicans also pushed through a revamp of the “emergency manager” legislation that was just repealed last month. ThinkProgress reports:

The initial version gave broader powers to state-appointed emergency managers who oversee townships that are struggling financially.

Among those powers was the ability to void union contracts and labor agreements. The new version, introduced by state Rep. Al Pscholka (R), makes small changes but still includes the provision granting the manager authority over labor contracts, as the Detroit Free Press reports

The new version of the law passed on Thursday.

4. Anti-abortion “super bill” passes

Michigan Republicans were awfully busy this session curbing women’s health rights. The omnibus anti-abortion law, called “the nation’s worst” by ThinkProgress when it was introduced over the summer, passed this week as well. The Ms. Magazine blog reports on the “super bill”:

HB 5711 requires that clinics meet the same standards and regulations as surgical centers and that fetal remains are to be treated the same as a dead human body, including authorization from the local or state registrar before cremation. The bill also requires that doctors provide a written "risk assessment" to patients at least 24 hours before having a procedure and prohibits the use of telemedicine to prescribing abortion-inducing medication. Doctors will also have to certify that a woman is not being coerced into having an abortion by asking probing and invasive questions as a result of HB 5711.

Good lord.

Satirical bonus #5: Denying food stamps for hungry citizens because of "moral" objections

Update: This item is satire -- quite good satire! -- so we're leaving it up, with the caveat that it is not real.

This is the hunger equivalent of the above "conscience" anti-abortion and -contraception bill (via Booman Tribune):

In another stunning legislative maneuver, Michigan Republicans passed a bill last night (attached as an amendment to an appropriations measure) that provides Michigan grocery store clerks may refuse to accept Food Stamps (under the Federal Government's Supplemental Nutritional Assistance program or SNAP as it is more commonly known) for payment of qualifying purchases if they have "moral objections" or believe that accepting food stamps as payment for food is a "matter of conscience." Furthermore, the clerks may not be fired by or otherwise penalized by their employers for refusing to accept food stamps or other means of federal food assistance such as EBT cards. The Obama administration has refused to make an announcement regarding the legislation until Governor Snyder signs the Bill into law, which he is expected to do later today. However, several activist organization have indicated they intend to file lawsuits to overturn the legislation.

So Michigan: quite a week you had there.

Lauren Kelley is the activism and gender editor at AlterNet and a freelance journalist based in New York City. Her work has appeared in Salon, Time Out New York, the L Magazine, and other publications. Follow her on Twitter.