TRAVERSE CITY — A survey of regional care providers including Planned Parenthood, Munson Medical Center, Thrive Medical Center, Generations Ahead and Single MOMM showed little to no change in the wake of the pivotal Supreme Court decision in June.
In the state of Michigan, abortions are still legal because of a temporary injunction against a 1931 law that would have made all abortions illegal, except to save the mother’s life, as previously reported.
State Attorney General Dana Nessel has repeatedly said that she will not prosecute anyone obtaining an abortion or helping to provide one, even if the injunction against Michigan’s 1931 law gets overturned.
Grand Traverse County Prosecutor’s Office personnel said they are currently part of a pending lawsuit, and that it would be inappropriate for them to comment on whether they would prosecute those seeking an abortion if the law was reinstated in Michigan.
For local organizations and nonprofits that provide assistance to parents or reproductive health care to women, the 1931 law would change the number of women they see, and in some cases, alter the services they are able to provide.
One of these organizations is the Thrive Medical Clinic near downtown Traverse City. Currently, Thrive offers ultrasounds, pregnancy testing and supplies for people with new children. They do not offer abortions or abortion referrals, according to their website.
The nonprofit has been in the community for 30 years, and does not have any other locations.
Joanna Law, marketing director of Thrive, said they are the only clinic north of Grand Rapids to offer an abortion pill reversal. The process can only be used between administration of the first and second abortion pills, and has a 60 percent chance of working, she said.
Thrive is not politically motivated and does not accept any federal funding, according to Law. Women do not have to pay for any of the services that Thrive offers, and there are no age or geographic requirements to receive them. Even though Thrive is not an abortion provider, Law said most of their patients have considered abortion by the time they come to Thrive.
“We really strongly believe that no woman should have to go through an unplanned pregnancy alone no matter what a woman is deciding,” Law said.
One of the organizations Thrive refers its patients to is Single MOMM, a Traverse City grassroots nonprofit founded in 2008. Executive Director Jennifer Finnegan Pool said in a statement they serve more than 2,000 families in the area per year by providing different kinds of programing and support for single mothers. Pool did not mention if there would be any anticipated increases in the number of families Single MOMM serves if abortion becomes illegal in Michigan.
But for Thrive, Law said they are prepared to see an increase in patients following the recent Supreme Court decision.
“We’ve had so many people recently who are feeling extra scared with everything going on and afraid of not getting support,” Law said.
Two miles away from Thrive Medical Center, Planned Parenthood of Traverse City is still open and offering all of the same services they had prior to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, according to Planned Parenthood of Michigan and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan Communications Director Ashlea Phenicia.
“When the Supreme Court decision was first announced, we saw our call center volume double. This was a mixture of patients worried that they couldn’t keep their appointments, we assured them that they could,” she said. “Over that weekend, we saw a 50 percent increase in requests for abortion appointments, many of which we believe are from out of state.”
After the Supreme Court ruling, many states, including Wisconsin, had trigger laws that immediately went into effect. Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin has temporarily suspended all abortion services, according to their website. Phenicie confirmed that they have had requests from patients in Wisconsin looking to come to Michigan for care.
All 14 Planned Parenthood health centers in Michigan offer medication abortion, which is available for up to 11 weeks gestation. There are three clinics downstate that offer in-clinic surgical abortions.
“We are looking for ways to expand access, but yes, as wait times increase, and people may be further along in their pregnancies that will be an issue,” Phenicie said.
In the scenario where an abortion ban takes effect in Michigan, and the 1931 law is reinstated, Phenicie said Planned Parenthood clinics would remain open in the state and continue to offer other reproductive health services. They would then serve as a connector for patients looking for care in states like Illinois, New York and other states that retain access.
“Abortion is already difficult for many Michiganders to access especially people living in rural and remote areas,” she said. “We already see patients who travel hundreds of miles to reach our health centers and receive care.”
At Munson Medical Center, women’s health care services will also remain the same. In a statement to the Record-Eagle, Munson Healthcare Chief Legal Officer Rachel Roe said the medical network will not change its current practices. According to its website, the Grand Traverse Women’s Clinic still offers contraception, ultrasounds and fertility services. An article from Bridge Michigan said Munson still offers medically necessary abortions.
According to reports from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, there were about 379 reported induced abortions in the northwest Michigan region in 2020. These numbers only included state-reported abortions.
That same year, there were about 191 reported pregnancies in northwest Michigan for 15- to 19-year-olds. According to data from the state, about 23 percent of these teen pregnancies ended in miscarriage.
For local organization Generations Ahead, the end of Roe v. Wade means that they are expecting up to a 50 percent increase in the clients that they serve, especially if Michigan’s 1931 law is reinstated, according to the group’s Director Marjie Rich.
“We do not have the funding or staff to serve another 50 percent,” Rich said. “At this point, we are at maximum capacity.”
Generations Ahead is located in Traverse City, and they will serve clients living in other counties if they are able to get to Grand Traverse County. Rich said that they serve a handful of clients who live in Kalkaska and Benzie counties.
“The majority of our clients are not talking to us about abortion, they have made their decision already by the time they join Generations Ahead,” Rich said. “But, it does happen on occasion that someone’s had a baby and they’re in our program, and they get pregnant a second time, and they may consider other options.”
Rich said the organization offers services to pregnant and teen moms and dads up until they turn 22. Generations Ahead does not charge clients for their services.
These services include mental health care from a licensed social worker, family activities, the mentoring program, a baby pantry, parent education and funded summer internships.
Rich estimates they served 100 clients last year, which includes parents and babies. With a 50 percent increase, they could be serving up to 150 clients per fiscal year in the future.
Rich said the level of services will have to go down if more families come through, since Generations Ahead will not turn people away. One service that will be impacted is mental health counseling, according to Rich.
Generations Ahead currently has one licensed social worker on staff, Jen Kraus, LMSW.
“Many of our clients come from backgrounds of childhood trauma,” Rich said. “Some of them are dealing with that at this point in their life, and they want to address it. she [Kraus] will not be able to significantly increase the number of people she’s providing social work mental health counseling for.”