Emotions flare as controversial abortion bills weighed in Lansing (Detroit Free Press)

Restrictions spark protests in Lansing

Published June 13, 2012 by Detroit Free Press.

By Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press Staff Writer.

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Published: 06.13.12| Updated: 06.14.12

Emotions are running high on both sides of the abortion debate as the state House considers -- as early as today -- a package of bills to add the most sweeping restrictions on the procedure the Legislature has considered in decades.

Abortion rights supporters say the bills could result in the closure of most Michigan clinics where abortions are performed.

Abortion rights opponents say the bills are a remedy for abuses.

On Tuesday, more than 250 people, many wearing bright pink T-shirts, protested against the bills on the lawn of the state Capitol in Lansing.

"We intend to be here tomorrow and Thursday and remind them as loudly and as often as we need to," said Lori Lamerand, board chairwoman of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan. "This bill really could have ramifications in November."

The T-shirts worn by the crowd, mostly women, said: "Women are Watching ... And we vote."

The group later crowded the gallery of the state House, spilled into the Capitol Rotunda and cheered when they saw legislators who support abortion rights wearing their T-shirts or buttons.

The state House tabled the bills Tuesday, but is expected to consider the legislation today and Thursday.

The bills would:

• Require doctors who perform abortions to meet new, higher standards of licensing for outpatient surgery and increase the amount of malpractice insurance they must carry. Opponents of the legislation predict the provision would lead to fewer clinics providing abortions and higher cost for women seeking the procedure.

• Outlaw abortions after 20 weeks, without exceptions for the health of the woman, rape, incest or fetal anomalies.

• Make it a crime to coerce a woman into an abortion.

• Prohibit video consultations for prescription of RU486, which blocks the hormone progesterone, which is needed to sustain a pregnancy and will cause a medically induced abortion in the early stage of pregnancies.

• Regulate the disposal of fetal remains.

Sponsors and supporters of the legislation call it a commonsense package that will protect women and fetuses.

"This is a remedy for abortion clinic abuses and will create safeguards for women," said Rebecca Mastee of the Michigan Catholic Conference.

Ed Rivet of Michigan Right to Life said some of the proposed changes have been a concern of his group for decades.

"The abortion industry has some very dark characters," he said.

But the protesters in Lansing said the bill would further limit women's access to health care services, including abortions.

"This is a complete overreach and will end up shutting down 28 of the 32 clinics that perform abortions," Lamerand said.

Dr. Timothy Johnson, a professor and director of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at the University of Michigan Health System, said it will cause doctors to leave Michigan or decline to move to the state for work.

"The barriers in these bills will result in longer waits for women, longer distances they have to travel for care and more expensive procedures," he said.

"I just hope this goes away and Michigan doesn't become a battle zone for this," Johnson added. "We've got a lot bigger issues to deal with in this state."

Nearly two-thirds of the members of the House have been endorsed by Michigan Right to Life.

"We'll certainly have a strong majority who will pass this legislation," Rivet said.

The state Senate, however, isn't expected to take up the bills until September at the earliest.

Gov. Rick Snyder hasn't taken a position on the package, said his spokeswoman, Geralyn Lasher.

"We're reviewing what's happening, but it's still such a work in progress," she said.

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