Beaumont-Spectrum system revises stance on abortion

BHSH System, the 22-hospital organization formed by the February merger of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Spectrum Health with Southfield, Mich.-based Beaumont Health, said it has evolved its approach on abortion.

In a news release posted June 26, the health system cited an unclear and uncertain legal landscape regarding abortion in Michigan as well as a 1931 state law. The law makes abortion a felony unless necessary to preserve the life of a woman.

The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade June 24, but there is an injunction in place prohibiting enforcement of the state law, according to Michigan Radio.

"At present, the current legal landscape regarding abortion in our state is unclear and uncertain. We are aware of the 1931 Michigan law. However, given the uncertainties and confusion surrounding its enforcement, until there is clarity, we will continue our practice of providing abortions when medically necessary," the health system said in its news release.

The health system went on to say that it "continue[s] to believe that these decisions are both personal and private and best made between a woman and her physician." Last year, the BHSH System performed about 60 therapeutic, medically necessary abortions that required hospital level care, the health system reported.

"We have not and will not perform elective abortions," the health system said. "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."

The health system posted the June 26 news release after it told staff June 24 that it would restrict abortions to cases where it's deemed "necessary to preserve the life of the woman," according to the Detroit Free Press.  

According to the newspaper, BHSH Health CEO Tina Freese Decker on June 24 cited the Supreme Court decision and said the health system will "only allow pregnancy termination when necessary to preserve the life of the woman."

The newspaper reported that she said: "Previously, BHSH System's policies and procedures generally allowed pregnancy termination for medical indications, such as when necessary to prevent serious risks to the woman's health or in situations where the fetus is not likely to survive.

"With the Supreme Court ruling, BHSH System's new policy and practices will follow the guidance of the Michigan 1931 law and only allow pregnancy termination when necessary to preserve the life of the woman."

Then later on June 24, according to Michigan Radio, Ms. Freese Decker sent another email to staff saying, "There is legal ambiguity regarding enforcement due to an active challenge to the injunction, placing our physicians and clinical teams at risk of criminal liability. This is not acceptable. We are actively seeking clarity regarding the law and enforcement."

"Our goal is to ensure our patients are cared for, and you, our team members, are supported and safe as well," she added, according to the radio network.

After the emails sent June 24, the health system provided an update on its stance June 26, while continuing to urge Michigan courts to "bring clarity as quickly as possible" regarding the 1931 law.

To read the full Michigan Radio report, click here. To read the full Detroit Free Press report, click here.

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