Lansing Update: Bills Protecting Children Move Forward in Michigan

In this update:

Sexual Abuse Prevention Measures Advance from Senate

Legislation to proactively prevent sexual abuse of children was approved by the Senate this week, keeping alive the possibility these long-sought reforms could see full legislative approval before session ends this year.

Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) has been working to help advance these sexual abuse prevention bills in partnership with Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit). They were originally prompted by the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, and versions of these bills have been introduced and reintroduced in three straight sessions.

Senate Bill 223 would require the state to create and distribute to all schools age-appropriate information about sexual harassment and assault for use in grades 6 through 12. It would also require that schools distribute this information, as well as the school policy on sexual assault and harassment. Further, schools would be encouraged to provide sexual assault and sexual harassment response training to all educators and school personnel who have contact with students.

The other bills in the package — Senate Bills 224, 225, 226 and 227 — would make it a crime to abuse a patient under the guise of medical care, or misrepresent that sexual contact is necessary for a patient’s health. The bills also require parental consent for certain sensitive procedures conducted on children, among other measures intended to prevent against medical professionals using their positions to take advantage of children.

The bills cleared a Senate committee Tuesday, and then the full Senate voted to send the bills to the House, where they were referred to committees for consideration.

The House is scheduled to meet next week for what many consider the last substantive session days before this current legislative session comes to an end, along with all bills that have been introduced during this session.

Also this week, a Senate committee approved a separate set of bills intended to curb abuse of children, with a specific focus on increasing penalties for those who commit abuse against vulnerable children such as kids with disabilities.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved House Bills 4071 and 4072 this week, sending them to the full Senate with one more substantive day of voting left in the chamber next week. The bills — which are supported by MCC — have already cleared the House.

The bills would increase the penalties for child abuse in cases where the victim is a “vulnerable child,” meaning an individual who is less than 18 years of age, and who has a developmental disability, mental illness, or physical disability, or is nonverbal.

MCC has supported these bills because implementing policies to guard and protect the most vulnerable among us — particularly children — is important for protecting families, children, and upholding the dignity of human life.

Bill Ensuring Organ Donation Access for People with Disabilities Moves Forward

A bill to ensure people with disabilities are not unjustly denied organ transplants moved out of a Senate committee with MCC support this week.

House Bill 4762 prohibits the refusal to do an organ transplant on a person with a disability solely based on the person’s disability. It would also prohibit refusal to do a referral or evaluation or placing a person on a waiting list for an organ donation for the same reason.

Along with a separate bill MCC supported earlier this session to allow for HIV-positive individuals to receive organ donations from other HIV-positive people, this bill ensures all people who need access to organ donations are treated with dignity they deserve.

The bill moved out of the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee this week to the full Senate for consideration.

U.S. Senate Approves Discriminatory Marriage Bill Despite Religious Liberty Concerns

Despite concerns raised about undermining religious liberty and the truth of marriage, a majority of the U.S. Senate voted to approve the so-called “Respect for Marriage Act” and sent it to the U.S. House, where it could soon be approved and sent to the President to be signed into law.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has warned that the deceptively named bill does not do enough to protect the religious rights of people who hold the time-honored understanding of marriage.

Bishop Robert Barron, chair of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth

There is concern that the legislation will lead to a greater risk of discrimination for faith-based adoption and foster care providers, as well as religious employers who hold to the truth that marriage, which “is a lifelong and exclusive union, a complete and mutual gift of the husband and wife to each other for their good and for the procreation and education of children,” said Bishop Robert Barron, chair of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, who added that this understanding of marriage is “essential to the common good.”

In response to the U.S. Senate vote in favor of the bill, Bishop Barron issued a statement that read, “This bill fails to include clear, comprehensive, and affirmative conscience protections for religious organizations and individuals who uphold the sanctity of traditional marriage that are needed.

Bishop Barron continued: “We affirm our respect for the dignity of all engaged in this debate, and acknowledge differing perspectives in our civil society, but the impact of this bill will only contribute to the diminishment of the sacredness and integrity of marriage in our society.”

For a more detailed explanation about the religious liberty concerns with the bill, click or tap here.

We also want to thank those who responded to the USCCB’s past call to reach out to our U.S. senators to urge them to vote no. It is important to continue to witness to the Catholic teaching and perspective on marriage in the public square, and your voice is crucial toward accomplishing that.