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Abortion bill in Michigan Senate draws critics from all sides

Planned action Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee to take up a bill to ban partial birth abortions has drawn sharp criticisms not only of abortion rights advocates, but from the Republican leadership.

Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) agreed to have a hearing on SB 160, The Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, during the Senate Judiciarymeeting Tuesday afternoon. That move comes as Republicans are trying to maintain message discipline and focus on economic issues.

Republicans are wrestling with a host of controversial economic issues. Among those issues is the budget proposal from Gov. Rick Snyder, which would eliminate tax credits for the working poor and add a tax on retirement pensions, and a number of controversial bills that are sparking anger from organized labor. Those bills include right to work zones, emergency financial manager legislation and a move to eliminate prevailing wage laws in the state.

Matt Marsden, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), took issue with Jones’ plan in an interview with the subscription only Michigan Information and Research Service (MIRS).

“I’m reminded of Cool Hand Luke when it comes to Senator Jones: ‘What we’ve got here is failure to communicate,’” Marsden said. “. . . The Majority Leader has been abundantly clear that the focus of the Senate is on jobs and the economy and a determined focus on working with this administration and the House to complete a budget as efficiently as possible. This issue is not relevant to any of those items.”

Marsden continued in the interview, calling Jones “politically tone deaf” and claiming the former Eaton County Sheriff is grandstanding for media attention.

For his part Jones said he was told by the Republican Floor Leader Arlan Meekoff (R-West Olive) that the bills were ready to go. Jones told MIRS that he “believes in working,” and that because work on revamping the state’s sex offender registry is still being reviewed, he had time to take up the partial birth abortion legislation.

“I would never do something to get media attention,” Jones added. “The issues I take up are ones where you walk into any coffee shop in my district, and people would say, ‘this is common sense. Fix it.’”

While Jones was taking heat from Richardville’s team, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU were also taking the Judiciary hearing to task.

“If the goal of the Michigan Legislature is to reduce the number of abortions in Michigan, preventing unintended pregnancies should be the top priority,” said Sarah Scranton, Planned Parenthood Executive Director. “SB 160 will not prevent a single unintended pregnancy or abortion. Instead it is a wedge issue that serves as a troubling distraction from real problems facing our state – the economy, jobs and education.”

The legislation marks the fifth time anti-abortion advocates in the Michigan legislature have tried to pass a partial birth abortion ban. But each time prior, and in this current legislation, the bills did not provide exceptions when the life of the mother is in jeopardy.

Shelli Weisberg, ACLU of Michigan legislative director, also slammed the Judiciary Committee for considering the legislation, noting that federal law already outlaws so-called partial birth abortion.

“Although we believe that such laws are bad for women and prevent doctors from practicing the safest and best medicine, this bill is unnecessary because of our federal laws,” said Weisberg. “Even those who are anti-choice should be concerned with our legislature’s attempt to duplicate federal efforts, waste time and money.”

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