Senate OKs bill tightening rules on Michigan abortion clinics

7:26 PM, Dec 12, 2012   |    comments
The Capitol in Lansing. Photo from the Associated Press.
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LANSING, Mich. (WZZM) -- A bill that may limit abortion options in Michigan has passed the state Senate on a 27-10 vote, strengthening restrictions on clinics.

The Senate made minor changes to the bill, so it has to go back to the full House for concurrence, which is expected to happen this week.

The vote was primarily along party lines, with Sen. Tupac Hunter, D-Detroit, and John Gleason, D-Flushing, joining most Republicans in supporting it. Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Twp., a doctor, did not vote on the bill.

The bill:

  • Requires abortion clinics to be licensed and adhere to the same standards and regulations as free-standing surgical clinics.
  • Dictates how to dispose of fetal remains.
  • Prohibits a doctor from performing an abortion until determining that the woman hasn't been coerced into undergoing the procedure.

No decision has been made on when the House will hold its vote to concur with the Senate version of the bill, said Ari Adler, a spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall.

Sens. John Gleason, D-Flushing, and Hunter joined most of the Republicans to pass the bill. Sen. Roger Kahn, a Republican and physician from Saginaw Township, did not vote on it.

Earlier today, the state House insurance committee moved to the full House a bill that would allow health care providers and facilities to refuse service based on a moral objection, religious reasons or matters of conscience.

And last week, language inserted in an unrelated bill addressing a proposed change in the structure of Michigan's largest insurer, restricted insurers to make abortion coverage automatic in policies sold on a new health exchange - a web-based marketplace where customers could buy insurance under health care reforms effective in 2014.

Ed Rivet, spokesman for Michigan Right to Life, called the three bills "remarkable" and the culmination of 25 years of work in Lansing.

"Those three issues were our top issues - conscience, insurance and regulation, and reform," he said. "That we're doing them all simultaneously is pretty remarkable."

He added: "This is a bit of reward for 25 years of work."

Democrats tried to get a series of amendments added to the bill, including one that would require physicians to determine whether a vasectomy sought by a man was medically necessary and whether the man seeking it was being coerced into the procedure.

"What's good for the goose is good for the gander," said state Sen. Rebekah Warren, D- Ann Arbor.

All the amendments failed.

State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, said the bill is a "pro-woman" bill that will ensure that abortion clinics are "licensed, inspected and safe."

But state Sen. Coleman Young II, D-Detroit, the son of former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, said his mother was pressured to get an abortion when she was pregnant with him and refused.

"My mother told me that this was a decision that she made, but she would never make that decision for another woman," he said. "This is just one more attempt to push an ideological agenda to stop a woman's right to choose," he said.

The Michigan Catholic Conference and Right to Life said the bill was a common-sense measure.

"A woman's health and safety must be a priority, and we're thankful that the Senate has placed the dignity of women ahead of the financial interests of the abortion industry," said Rebecca Mastee, policy advocate for the Michigan Catholic Conference.

Lori Lamerand, president of Planned Parenthood of Michigan, which operates 25 health centers in the state -- including four that provide abortions -- said the group would be happy to be licensed and regulated by the state, but that the bills passed by the Senate were overreaching and would result in clinics having to close their doors.

If they're regulated like standalone surgical centers, which use general anesthesia (the abortion clinics don't), the size of the medical rooms would have to grow in both size and height, and recovery areas also would have to grow, she said.

Rene Chelian, president of the Northland Family Planning Centers in Southfield, Westland and Sterling Heights, said there's nothing in the bill that makes abortion safer.

"This is an attempt to make clinics spend more money to do things like increase door sizes," she said. "This is all about limiting access."

But Rivet, at Michigan Right to Life, said the bill is about safety, sanitary conditions and requiring that basic medical protocol is used in clinics. Earlier this year, Right to Life released a report concluding that lax state oversight threatened patient safety.

"In some cases, they'll be able to get waivers, and in some cases, they may have to relocate," he said. "And in some cases, they should just not be operating at all."

When the bill passed the House this summer, it created an uproar when state Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, said on the House floor, "I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but no means no."

The words caused the House leadership to censure Brown and another state representative and not allow them to speak the rest of the week. Several protests followed, along with a reading of the "Vagina Monologues" on the steps of the state Capitol that was attended by hundreds of people.

By Kathleen Gray and Robin Erb, Detroit Free Press staff writers

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