State GOP lawmakers set to OK ban on partial-birth abortions (Detroit News)

Published September 20, 2011 by The Detroit News.

By Karen Bouffard, Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Detroit News





Published: 09.20.11| Updated: 09.22.11

Lansing—House and Senate Republicans are poised to approve a ban on partial-birth abortions Wednesday after positioning the legislation for passage.

The two-bill package closely mirrors the 2003 federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007. House and Senate leaders said Tuesday they have enough votes to push the bills through.

At least 30 states, including Michigan, have passed bans on the practice, but many have been struck down in court, most for being overly broad, according to Ed Rivet, legislative director for Right to Life of Michigan. The group opposes the practice in which a fetus is partially born, and then killed before fully emerging from a mother's womb.

"This is a policy that the people broadly support," Rivet said, adding at least a half dozen states have enacted bans since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. "Regardless of anyone's position on the abortion issue … this particular form of abortion is beyond what a civil society can tolerate."

If the legislation passes, performing a partial-birth abortion would become a felony punishable by up to two years in prison and a $50,000 fine.There would be an exception if the mother's life is in danger. The legislation would also allow the mother's spouse, or if the mother is a minor, her parents, to sue the doctorfor civil damages.

Sarah Scranton, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, said she knows of no partial birth abortions being done since the federal ban was passed.

"This is already illegal, and since (the federal ban) there have been no cases reported in Michigan or across the country," Scranton said.

"The legislation keeps doctors from using their own judgment," Scranton added. "We really believe that women and their doctors should be making these decisions and not politicians."

If the ban is approved, it will be at least the sixth time the Michigan Legislature has enacted a ban. Bans adopted in 1996, 2001 and 2003 were struck down in federal court. The Legal Birth Definition Act, proposed by initiative petition and passed into law by the Legislature in 2004, was also found unconstitutional. And a ban adopted by the Legislature in 2008 was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

"The people's override petition in 2004 made it clear that the public finds partial-birth abortion to be unethical and unacceptable in this state," said Phyllis Browne, spokeswoman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall. "We are honoring the will of the people and protecting our shared values in fighting this injustice and protecting humanlife."

Michigan needs to enact its own ban even though the practice is banned at the federal level, Rivet said.

"(A state ban) will allow for local prosecutors or even the state attorney general to bring a case with a state law," Rivet said. "Federal prosecutors are busy prosecuting terrorists and other things and just don't have the resources to bring to a case like that."

Sara Wurfel, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Snyder, did not immediately respond to a request for comments. Snyder has said he is against abortion.

The measure would need to be signed by Snyder to become law.

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