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Michigan abortion opponents laud efforts to end ‘troubling and torturous’ practice

A ballot drive to ban abortions after a fetus’s heartbeat is detected comes a week after Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature voted to ban a common second-trimester abortion procedure.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A prohibition on dismemberment abortion is getting support from a Michigan group that’s launching a ballot drive to ban abortions after a fetus’s heartbeat is detected.

“We think it’s a good piece of legislation to get people thinking about how terrible abortion is,’’ said Mark Gurley, a member of the Michigan Heartbeat Coalition, which announced the ballot drive on Tuesday.

If about 340,000 valid signatures are gathered, the heartbeat initiative will go to the Republican-led legislature.

Gurley said the ballot proposal and support to end dismemberment abortion signals growing momentum here and across the U.S. for tough anti-abortion measures.

“Any pro-life legislation that tries to bring awareness to the horror of abortion is better than not having anything,’’ Gurley said. “It brings awareness that we should not be killing our own.’’

Legislation approved last week in Lansing would prohibit physicians from performing abortion by dilation and evacuation except to save a woman’s life. Anti-abortion advocates refer to the procedure as dismemberment abortion.

Gurley called on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to support the prohibition.

“If she didn’t veto it and put it into play, she wouldn’t look like a butcher in a state that is more pro-life than pro-abortion,’’ Gurley said. “The governor would be smart to support it.’’

Among those to recently testify in favor of the prohibition is state Rep. Lynn Afendoulis, R-Grand Rapids.

“This is not a pro-choice or right to life issue; this is a humanitarian issue,’’ Afendoulis said. “This is a procedure that is gruesome and troubling and torturous.’’

If a woman decides to have an abortion, there are other methods available, she said. “This should not be on the table as an option,’’ Afendoulis said. 

Those sentiments were echoed by Rep. Pamela Hornberger, the sponsor of HB 4320.

“Dismemberment abortions are typically used on babies that are between 13 and 24 weeks in gestation,’’ said Hornberger, R-Chesterfield Township. “The unfortunate babies who are between 13 and 24 weeks old have their arms and legs torn off their bodies, one by one, while they are still alive.’’

Merissa Kovach, a policy strategist for the ACLU of Michigan, opposes the legislation, which she called “unconstitutional’’ and “dangerous.’’

“Women need to be able to make their own health care decisions with the advice of health care professionals that they trust without interference from lawmakers,’’ she said at recent hearing on the legislation.

Amanda West, a representative of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan and Planned Parenthood of Michigan, said the bills are part of an orchestrated national strategy by anti-abortion politicians.

“Since 2010, politicians nationwide have quietly passed more than 400 medically unnecessary and politically motivated restrictions, creating a web of barriers that push safe and affordable care out of reach,’’ she said.

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