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Not just 'right-to-work': Michigan GOPers rush to pass slew of far-right bills

Michigan Republicans may have succeeded in making their state "right-to-work," but that doesn't mean they're willing to call it a day.
Governor Rick Snyder (AP Photo/Detroit News, Dale G. Young)
Governor Rick Snyder

Michigan Republicans may have succeeded in making their state "right-to-work," but that doesn't mean they're willing to call it a day. As the lame duck session draws to a close, GOP legislators are rushing to push through a slew of other far-right measures before they lose their grip on power.

Next to taking on organized labor, abortion has been at the top of the GOP's agenda. "There is this continual attack on women and their right to choose" in the Michigan legislature, said Senator Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic minority leader.

On Tuesday, lawmakers also approved a bill that would bar insurance plans from covering abortion services unless employers attach an additional rider.

That's not all. On Wednesday, the House considered a bill that critics call a TRAP law—meaning Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. This one would impose severe new regulations on abortion clinics, possibly shutting down several of them. Similar legislation may soon effectively ban abortion in the state of Mississippi by making it impossible for the state's only clinic to operate—an outcome which one lawmaker admitted was his goal all along.

"These are abominable bills which would destroy reproductive justice in this state," said Jeff Liebmann, a Unitarian minister from Midland, Michigan. "Even though the Supreme Court doesn't allow a state to ban abortions, these bills make it virtually impossible for any lab to offer them, or any woman to afford them."

Liebmann was one of several protesters at Tuesday's union rally who voiced their concern over pending anti-abortion and anti-contraception legislation. Planned Parenthood also appeared at the rally, displaying a large pink banner.

But there's more than just reproductive rights at stake: On Wednesday, House Republicans are also taking up SB 878, which would allow a privately run youth correctional facility to house adult inmates, thereby expanding Michigan's privately-run incarceration infrastructure.

"Working in a correctional facility is a dangerous job, and it requires a certain level of skill to do that kind of work," said Zack Pohl, executive director of Progress Michigan. "And turning it over to a private corporation with less accountability and transparency is ultimately bad for taxpayers, and bad for public safety in Michigan."

Lastly, the House may consider banning the use of "foreign laws that would impair constitutional rights”—what critics say amounts to an effort to vilify Islam by targeting "Shariah Law".

"They don't explicitly reference Islam or Shariah law in the bill," said Pohl. "But the way it's worded, it's, for all intents and purposes, the only thing it would target." The bill is sponsored by Rep. Dan Agema, who will lose his seat after the lame duck session due to Michigan's term limits, and who Pohl described as one of the most right-wing members of the legislature.

Why is the flurry of conservative legislation happening now? Perhaps because in January, the GOP will lose its commanding majority in both chambers of the legislature. In 2013, Republicans will continue to hold the majority in both the House and the Senate, but by a much slimmer margin.