(DETROIT FREE PRESS) - An omnibus abortion bill, approved by the Senate on Wednesday, passed the House early this morning by a 72-35 vote, after a controversial requirement that an aborted fetus be buried, cremated or interred was removed earlier this week.
Democrats offered a handful of amendments, some referred to as "what's good for the goose is good for the gander," to require men to undergo physical exams before being prescribed Viagra or to get a vasectomy.
But all the amendments were shot down.
Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign the bill into law.
"When this first came up, there were some real concerns on this end," spokesman Sara Wurfel said earlier in the day, declining to discuss specifics.
She said Snyder's staff had been working with lawmakers into this week on the bill, and he was satisfied now that its new language protects the "health and safety" of women who choose to have an abortion and addresses "the respectful disposal of remains."
"With the changes that have been made, the governor believes an important balance has been struck," she said.
A separate bill that would have allowed health care providers to opt out of procedures to which they had moral or religious objections did not come up for a vote, meaning it effectively dies for the year.
The issue of what to do with fetal remains re-emerged in 2010 after a Michigan abortion clinic was accused of throwing into a garbage bin more than a dozen aborted fetuses, said Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, who first introduced legislation on the issue in 2011.
After the incident, "it was brought up to me that in a number of hospitals, women had lost babies and they wanted to have - because of their religious beliefs - a burial," he said.
He said his legislation was aimed at addressing both aborted fetuses as well as fetuses from women who could not carry their pregnancies to term.
The bill approved this morning would allow fetal remains older than 10 weeks to be medically incinerated - the same way they are supposed to be destroyed now as medical waste - rather than having to be buried, cremated or interred.
"It was an attempt to shame women and cause them .... to say this is a human being you are killing, and to make the woman think she was committing murder," Mary Pollock, legislative liaison for the National Organization for Women, said of the original language.
The original legislation introduced by Jones required the mother to be consulted before remains were discarded.
Jones dismissed criticisms that the language was an attempt to guilt women into carrying their pregnancies to term.
"Shame on them," he said of critics.
Referring to pictures that he said he saw of the 17 fetal remains from the abortion clinic in 2010, he said: "I saw these aborted babies, they were little human beings. If (critics of the bill) want to call them medical waste that's their prerogative... I saw very vivid pictures of babies."
Ed Rivet, legislative director for Right to Life Michigan, said opponents of the bill intentionally misinterpreted its language to confuse the issue.
He said the intent of the law was not to shame women out of abortions through a conversation about the fetus. Rather it was about simply making sure fetuses - whether from an abortion or a stillbirth - were handled properly, he said.
"Look, they can't be thrown in the trash," he said.
The bill - part of a series of abortion bills making their way through the Legislature - also would require clinics doing more than 120 abortions a year to be licensed and adhere to the same standards and regulations as free-standing surgical clinics. Most in Michigan are not licensed that way now.
"We must make sure that abortion clinics are safe until we can end the scourge of abortion," said state Rep. Thomas Hooker, R-Byron Center.
But state Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright, D-Muskegon, characterized the bill as a "war on women."
The bill also would prohibit doctors from performing abortions unless they're sure the woman has not been coerced into the procedure.
Other bills heading for Snyder's desk would prohibit insurers from offering policies on a new health insurance exchange from automatically including coverage for abortions. The exchange will be a Web-based marketplace of insurance products established under federal health care reform. Abortion coverage would have to be purchased as an add-on to policies on the exchange.
Similar legislation has been passed elsewhere across the U.S., although Michigan's provision on medical waste was surprising, said Elizabeth Nash, who tracks abortion laws for the Guttmacher Institute, a national pro-choice group.
Last year, states passed 92 restrictions on abortions, Nash said, as religious beliefs began guiding many legislatures.
"A person's religion shouldn't inform patient care," she said.
Detroit Free Press