Should the Legislature Enact Changes to Abortion Law? (Bridge)

Posted June 24, 2012 as a guest column on Bridge by the Center for Michigan.

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Published: 06.21.12| Updated: 06.21.12

A broad package of bills dealing with Michigan regulations on abortion were filed in the Legislature on May 31. Within a week, they had advanced to the full House of Representatives. On June 13, after a heated debate that has drawn national attention to Michigan, one bill, House Bill 5711, passed with 70 votes in the House. Bridge asked representatives of two groups central to the debate to address the question of whether change is needed in state abortion law.

No: Michigan House’s focus on abortion misguided, dangerous

By Lori Lamerand/Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan

In passing House Bill 5711, our state representatives have ignored the desperate needs of women for affordable reproductive health care, especially in these tough economic times. Instead, they’ve decided to play doctor.

Lori Lamerand is the chair of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan.

HB 5711, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Rendon (R-Lake City), is a sweeping, 58-page bill that moved through the House this month with unprecedented speed and a lack of any reasonable analysis as to its costs or consequences.

The bill includes a requirement that health centers providing abortion must build “freestanding surgical outpatient” operating rooms. Never mind that medication abortions involve the administration of pills, not surgery. This onerous requirement could force all such health centers to comply with unnecessary regulations at great expense or stop providing abortion care, denying women access to safe, legal medical procedures. 

The devastating threat to women’s health care doesn’t end there. HB 5711 also carries increased liability insurance requirements for doctors who perform abortions. This is an onerous obligation that is not required for other more complicated OB/GYN procedures, or for any other medical specialty. It also ignores the fact that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures.

This unnecessary intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship only will dissuade physicians from wanting to practice in Michigan. Already, 21 of Michigan’s 83 counties do not have a single OB/GYN provider, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health. It’s ironic that a bill that purports to have the safety of women at heart will only serve to make safe, professional reproductive health care harder to obtain.

Still waiting to be taken up by the House is House Bill 5713, sponsored by Rep. Deb Shaughnessy (R-Charlotte), which makes it illegal to perform an abortion after 20 weeks unless it’s necessary to preserve the life of the mother. The bill makes no exception for rape, incest or the health of the mother. Pregnancy complications are the sixth leading cause of death of women ages 20 to 24. Do we really need politicians deciding when and how doctors can safely treat those complications?

We all know that the preventing unplanned pregnancies is the surest way to end abortion in Michigan. In a state where 53 percent of pregnancies are unplanned, it makes more sense to invest in education, access to birth control and family planning services, while continuing to make sure that abortion care is available for those who need it.

Ninety-seven percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are preventive, life-saving procedures, including annual exams, breast exams, birth control, testing and treatment of STDs, and sex education. We serve patients on a sliding fee scale and, for the vast majority, a trip to Planned Parenthood is the only health care they’ll receive in a given year. If legislators want to end abortion in Michigan, the best thing they can do is support the organization wholly dedicated to preventing unplanned pregnancies: Planned Parenthood.

Investment in prevention is also fiscally responsible. Sixty-two percent of births from unintended pregnancies are publicly funded, costing taxpayers about $282 million annually.

The Legislature’s obsessive focus on banning abortion is extreme and misguided, placing the health and safety of thousands of women at risk. The House is now in recess and it will be incumbent upon the Senate to put women’s health care before partisan politics. 

We urge them to take their responsibility seriously. Michigan women are watching — and they vote. 

Yes: Abortion industry’s substandard medical practices must end

By Pamela Sherstad/Right to Life Michigan

A bill addressing the substandard medical practices of the abortion industry has caused, what appears to be, a great deal of misguided uproar by those who oppose the legislation.  The Michigan House of Representatives advanced House Bill 5711 by a bipartisan vote of 70-39 on June 13. The important question to ask is, “What is in this bill, given all the controversy surrounding it?”

Pamela Sherstad is director of public information for Right to Life of Michigan.

Before we can discuss HB 5711 and the details of its contents, it is important to clearly state what HB 5711 is not. It is not about the legality of abortion. It is important to know that the United States Supreme Court created a federal constitutional right to abortion in the 1973 decisions of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Abortion is legal through all nine months of pregnancy.
HB 5711 is about the unchecked abortion industry in Michigan. 
HB 5711 is a combination of five previously introduced bills rolled into a single, omnibus bill. The bill amends the Michigan Public Health Code to bring about long overdue reforms to the state’s abortion industry.
In brief, HB 5711 will:

1. Require all surgical abortion clinics to be licensed and inspected by the state.

2. Require abortion clinics to screen women for coercion to abort.

3. Prohibit prescribing and dispensing RU-486 abortion pills via Internet webcam connections.

4. Require the humane disposition of aborted baby bodies.

5. Require abortionists with bad medical records to carry a minimum amount of malpractice insurance.
Abortion is an invasive surgical procedure developed to end the life of an unborn child. The abortion procedure also can lead to serious medical complications for a woman. According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, 23,307 abortions were performed in 2010. Potential complications for abortion include, but are not limited to, bleeding, hemorrhage, infection, uterine perforation, blood clots, cervical tears, incomplete abortion, and cardiac arrest.
I attended a committee hearing that addressed serious abortion industry concerns. The Michigan Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Licensing & Regulatory Affairs heard testimony on abortion clinic abuses in Michigan. To hear about the substandard medical practices of Michigan’s abortion industry was shocking.

A few of the abuses noted during the hearing including: violation of bio-hazard waste disposal and medical record privacy laws; negligent operative and post-operative practices that have resulted in patient injury and death; and refusal to release medical records for patient use and patient follow-up care.

From what I learned during the committee hearing, Michigan has a public health problem.
Michigan lawmakers have a duty and responsibility to act when there is a public health problem. According to the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, a state has “a legitimate interest in seeing to it that abortion, like any other medical procedure, is performed under circumstances that ensure maximum safety for the patient.” Plainly, Michigan lawmakers are working within their authority to intervene regarding substandard practices within the abortion industry.
There are very good reasons why this legislation passed by a 70-39 vote, common sense and true concern for women’s health being among them. I only wish the lawmakers had acted 39 years ago. Too many women in Michigan have been put at risk.

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