Abortion Clinic Licensing Rules
The content of H.B. 5522 was incorporated into H.B. 5711, the prolife omnibus bill (aka "the Prolife Bus") in May 2012. The House and Senate acted on, and ultimately passed H.B. 5711 in place of H.B. 5522. With the signing of H.B. 5711 into law by Gov. Snyder on December 28, 2012, the content of H.B. 5522 is part of Public Act 499 of 2012, making passage of H.B. 5522 unnecessary.
H.B. 5522 was introduced on March 29, 2012 and referred to the House Committee on Health Policy.
H.B. 5522 amends the Public Health Code to change the legal threshold at which an abortion clinic will be required to be licensed as a Freestanding Surgical Outpatient Facility (FSOF). Under current licensing rules, an abortion clinic may operate as a "physician private practice office" if less than 50% of the patients it serves obtain an abortion. A FSOF has rigorous set of health and safety standards, and is supposed to be inspected by state officials on an annual basis in order to maintain its license. A private physician office has no specific licensing rules and is never inspected. H.B. 5522 eliminates the "50% rule," requiring that all facilities performing outpatient abortions to be licensed as a FSOF.
In 1981, a lawsuit brought by abortionists challenging state licensing of abortion clinics resulted in a federal court exempting abortion clinics in Michigan from having to be licensed as FSOFs. By the 1990s, the U.S. Supreme Court had altered the standards by which abortion laws were reviewed, reopening the prospect of states being able to require abortion clinics to be licensed as FSOFs. In 1999, H.B. 4599 was approved as Public Act 206 of 1999, which put in place the "50% rule." This standard was presumed to be safe from additional court challenges, but would also encompass all abortion clinics, as they rarely provide any services beyond abortion.
However, PA 206 has not been meaningfully enforced since its effective date in April of 2000. Abortion clinics were asked by state regulators to self-report whether they met the 50% rule for FSOF licensing. Not surprisingly, most clinics reported that did not meet the threshold. As a result, currently only 4 of 32 surgical abortion facilities in Michigan are licensed as FSOFs. A ground-breaking report on this overall regulatory failure was released by Right to Life of Michigan in March 2012. (see the report here). A Michigan Senate subcommittee on licensing and regulatory affairs subsequently held a hearing where RLM and state regulators testified on the lack of FSOF licensing. The 50% rule was specifically identified by regulators as a hindrance to effective enforcement. Thus, H.B. 5522 will remove a key barrier to bringing abortion clinics under the same health and safety standards as every other outpatient surgical facility.
While the problem of effectively licensing abortion clinics has persisted despite the passage of PA 206, H.B. 5522 is the first bill introduced to eliminate the 50% rule and bring all abortion clinics under FSOF licensing standards.