Right-to-Lifers in Lansing Create Lots of Drama and Bad Legislation (Deadline Detroit)

Published June 7, 2012, by Deadline Detroit.

By Sandra Svoboda.


Published: 06.07.12| Updated: 06.13.12


I’ll hand it to the right-to-lifers: they’ve got dramatic effects and some Michigan politicians on their side.

That power was painfully and dangerously evident in Thursday’s House health policy committee meeting in Lansing where anti-abortion speakers described women dragged to have abortions against their will, duct-taped exam tables and baby parts in trash bins.

Sure, a couple of physicians testified, but what chance do sound bytes like “threats to doctor-patient confidentiality” and “optimal patient care” have to resonate against RtL’s illustrations?

Never mind those issues directly affect more of us every day.

In case you weren’t in Lansing or watching the hearing online at, here’s what happened:

On Thursday, after just 75 minutes of testimony from six people (a reported several dozen requested to speak), the committee voted along party lines to forward the three measures to the full House.

If enacted they would dramatically restrict abortion services, intrude on the doctor-patient relationship, impose expensive insurance burdens on obstetrical and gynecological providers and cut off some forms of health care to women in Michigan’s rural counties where no ob-gyns practice.
(So much for reducing the regulatory burden, shrinking government and ensuring personal liberty.)

Among the many ironies present, several provisions of the three measures (House bills 5711, 5712 and 5713) have already passed committees or floor votes in one chamber on their own.

But in this consolidated package, changes to between nine and 12 provisions of the Michigan Public Health Code could be rammed through our legislature in an omnibus, 45-page package of restrictions and requirements that are overly broad, vague, recklessly constructed and effectively unenforceable.

Of course, the bills purport to prevent women from being coerced into having abortions and create safer facilities where abortions are performed and ban.

And on the surface, that sounds great. In a previous version of an anti-coercion measure, Planned Parenthood was supportive.
But these bills as they’re thrown together? Not so much.
“They do nothing to address anything else related to women’s health care, only abortion provision,” says Lori Lamerand, CEO of Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan.

For example, the bills contain an outright ban on abortions after 20 weeks, with a vague exception for the life – not health – of the mother.

“It has no exceptions for fetuses found to have anomalies that are incompatible with life or life-debilitating diseases or outcomes,” says Lamerand. “Or if a woman is found to have cancer near the middle of her pregnancy she would be prohibited from ending the pregnancy to save her own life.”

What’s particularly infuriating is the attention and action these bills are getting while other important legislation languishes. And those other measures affect millions of Michiganians, our trade and economy and the ethical operation of government, to name a few.

Proposed and as yet-unacted-upon legislation would create better regional transit, require financial disclosure in elections, build a publicly owned bridge crossing between the United States and Canada, bolster animal cruelty prevention and penalties…the list goes on.

While all those proposed policies await hearings or actions in committees or are negotiated to liking of the governor’s office, the committee charged with creating law for Michigan’s health and medical well being forged ahead with this overly broad mess.

It would be different if the bills were addressing, say, an emergency public health issue or had been proposed by medical experts who saw an urgent need for legislative action.

But let’s look at the three legislators – all first-term Republicans -- who sponsored the bills. They have experience in: home construction and judging cattle shows (Rep. Bruce Rendon, R-Lake City); operating grocery stores and sewer lagoons (Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama); and as a legislative aide, small town mayor and Right to Life volunteer (Rep. Deb Shaughnessy, R-Charlotte).

In contrast, Timothy Johnson, the head of the University of Michigan’s department of obstetrics and gynecology, was one of two physicians allowed to speak in opposition to the package.

Who do you want deciding what your health care looks like?

Ultimately, Gov. Snyder may get a chance at this. Will he pander to the conservatives who are injecting (supposedly) religious values into Michigan health policy? Or will he show us he’s the self-described “moderate on social issues” that drew so many to his campaign?

Laws related to private medical procedures should not be driven by dramatics or the political agendas of legislative newcomers but by the concerns for the safety, privacy and accessibility to services by those who most need them.

If I could think of a more dramatic way to say that, I would. Perhaps our more sensible, moderate, compassionate and properly focused legislators will help us out.


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