Michigan Senate, House pass ‘partial-birth abortion’ ban
In spite of a series of amendments from Democrats, the Michigan Senate Wednesday morning approved a two-bill package banning so-called “partial birth abortions.”
The Republican-controlled chamber voted 29-8 to approve SB 160 and SB 161. The first bill bans the procedure, while the latter bill creates a two-year felony for those who perform the procedure in violation of the ban. The legislation was passed by the House Wednesday afternoon.
Gov. Rick Snyder’s office says he is likely to sign the bills into law and that he supports the ban. Conservatives expressed deep concerns about Snyder’s anti-abortion bone fides during the 2010 primary because he support stem cell research. He did not receive the endorsement of Michigan Right to Life.
Democrats questioned the need for the bill.
“Senate Bill 160 and its companion piece Senate Bill 161 are an answer in search of question,” said Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor).
Warren offered four amendments to SB 160. The first one she offered would have allowed doctors to make decisions to address the health of a woman based on sound medical practice. The second amendment would have inserted a provisions to allow for greater access to birth control and healthy sexuality education. Warren’s third amendment would have also addressed timing of the procedure allowing for it in earlier stages of pregnancy. And in her final amendment, Warren moved to gut the entire implementation aspects of the legislation.
“[Partial birth abortion] is a political term, not a medical term,” Warren said in pushing for adoption of her final amendment. “Let’s write this so it is clear to the doctors in our state what is and is not legal.”
Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R-Olive Twp.), sponsor of the legislation, dismissed Democrats amendments as “unnecessary.”
Two other amendments were offered.
Sen. Vincent Gregory (D-Southfield) introduced an amendment to allow the use of the procedure in cases of incest or rape.
“We have no right as a legislature to impose this on any woman,” the senator said of prohibiting the procedure in cases of rape or incest.
And finally, Democrat Glenn Anderson of Westland pushed an amendment which would have extended exemptions to the law to protect the health and life of the woman.
“This legislation says politicians, not doctors, know what’s best for the health of a woman,” Anderson said. Anderson noted that the legislation could force women to carry a pregnancy to term in spite of risks to her fertility or other medical issues.
Meekhof said Anderson was off base in his assessment.
“There are provisions already in the bill to protect the life of the mother — and I stress the life of the mother,” Meekhof said.
“And the culture wars begin anew,” said Sen. Bert Johnson (D-Detroit) following voting. He said the bills were unneeded and that they did nothing to create jobs. He tied this vote to the “guilty” consciences of Senate Republicans who, he said, had attacked the poor, eliminated the safety social net and eroded the rights of working men and women.
“Socialism and welfare for the rich; strict libertarianism and austerity for the poor. This is class warfare,” said Johnson.
Students at Michigan State University’s Students for Choice group said they were disappointed that the legislature was taking up the measures, and echoed Johnson’s concerns.
“It is appalling that our legislature is spending time dealing with social issues for their personal agendas,” said Students for Choice President Marcia LeVigne. “They said ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ and then they attacked women’s health.”
“Taking away abortion rights is not going to end the need for abortions,” said Molly Korn, student involved in the group.
After the bills passed, Meekhof rose to tell the chamber that the bills were important to him because he was adopted as an infant. He said he thanked his birth mother everyday for not choosing to abort him. Meekhof was born in 1959, a 14 years before the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling which made abortion legal in the U.S.
“He’s never met his birth mother, so he has no idea what she did or didn’t contemplate,” says Bob DeVries, Meekhof’s chief of staff. “What he knows it that in 1959 abortion was illegal — thank God — and he’s alive because of it.”
David Holtz, executive director of Progress Michigan, took issue with Meekhof’s statements.
“As someone who was adopted himself — and who has spoken with his birth mother about her choices — I personally resent Arlan Meekhof politicizing adoption to drive a political agenda that puts women and their health at risk,” Holtz said. “Meekhof ‘s poor judgement just reinforces the wisdom that women — and not politicians — should be deciding issues affecting their health.”