Michigan health system reverses decision to restrict abortion care after Roe overturns

Update: Sunday, June 26, 12:05 a.m.

After telling BHSH Health staff on Friday that the health system would limit abortions to cases where it is deemed “necessary to preserve the woman’s life,” BHSH CEO Tina Freese Decker reversed course on Saturday evening.

In an email to employees, Decker wrote that BHSH “will continue our practice of offering abortions when medically necessary.”

She noted that the health system performed about 60 “medically necessary therapeutic abortions requiring hospital care” last year. She said the hospital has not and will not perform “elective abortions”.

Original post: Saturday, June 25, 4:45 p.m.

One of Michigan’s largest health systems has told staff it will no longer perform abortions except to save a woman’s life.

In an email sent to employees on Friday obtained by Michigan Radio, BHSH Health CEO Tina Freese Decker cited the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. quashing Roe v. Wade earlier that day. She wrote that the health system “will now only allow termination of pregnancy when necessary to preserve the woman’s life.”

BHSH, formed earlier this year by the merger of Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health, operates more than 20 hospitals and employs more than 60,000 people in Michigan.

Decker’s email said the health system’s new abortion policy would align with Michigan’s law of 1931 which makes abortion a crime except when performed to preserve a woman’s life.

This law was dormant under Roe v. Wade, and it remains unenforceable due to an injunction issued last month by the State Court of Claims.

In a second email to staff later Friday, Decker further explained the reasoning behind the decision to reduce abortions.

“There is legal ambiguity regarding enforcement due to an active challenge to the injunction, which puts our physicians and clinical teams at risk of criminal liability,” she wrote. “This is unacceptable. We are actively seeking to clarify the law and its application.”

“Our goal is to ensure that our patients are supported and that you, our team members, are also supported and safe,” Decker added.

His email also hinted at the potential consequences of the policy change. Black woman represent more than half abortions obtained in the United States, and they are more than three times more likely to not survive pregnancy than white women.

“There may be an impact on health equity, especially maternal and child mortality,” Decker said. “We will research and study potential health equity outcomes and implement programs to improve maternal and child health and reduce mortality, as required by law.”

BHSH representatives shared Decker’s second email with Michigan Radio but did not respond to emails or calls seeking comment on the new policy.

Other health systems in Michigan are prepares to expand abortion care following the decision Dobbs v. Jackson canceling Roe.

Denise W. Whigham