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Abortion Battle Heats up in Michigan

June 11, 2012

LANSING, Mich. - When legislation that imposes strict new rules on abortions in Michigan comes up on the floor of the state House of Representatives this week, several groups that support women's reproductive rights plan to be there to protest.

Mary Pollack, legislative vice president of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for Women, says that's because they weren't allowed to testify during a hearing on the bills that passed late last week in committee.

"A hearing was held for 90 minutes. Planned Parenthood, Michigan Now, ACLU were not allowed to speak."

The proposed legislation would ban abortion after 20 weeks, except in some cases when the woman's life is at risk. It would make it a crime to coerce a woman into having an abortion and require more regulations and insurance for clinics and doctors who provide abortions. Opponents call the legislation an attack on women's reproductive health. Supporters say it protects lives.

Some doctors oppose new regulations on abortion clinics, saying they will limit access to legal abortions. But Pam Sherstad, Right to Life of Michigan communications director, disagrees.

"Abortion clinics should be licensed and inspected as the outpatient surgical facilities that they are."

Under current Michigan law, clinics that provide abortions for more than half their patients already are regulated as outpatient surgical facilities. The proposed legislation would require clinics to be regulated as such if they provide six or more abortions per month.

Pollack sees this legislation as an effort to saddle clinics and doctors with excessive regulation.

"It combines a lot of different clinic-harassment and doctor-harassment provisions into one bill and essentially would close down most abortion clinics in this state."

The proposed legislation, introduced by Rep. Deb Shaughnessy, R-Charlotte, bans abortion after 20 weeks and would make no exceptions in the case of rape, incest or fetal abnormality.

The Guttmacher Institute reports that Republican-dominated state legislatures passed 92 abortion restrictions last year alone, compared with the previous record of 34. The report is online at guttmacher.org.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MI