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Anti-abortion groups start drive to ban 2nd-trimester method

David Eggert
Associated Press

Lansing – Michigan anti-abortion groups began circulating petitions Wednesday to significantly restrict a common second-trimester procedure they said is “barbaric,” hoping to put the veto-proof measure before the Republican-led Legislature by early next year.

Barbara Listing, president of Right to Life of Michigan, joins other anti-abortion advocates to officially launch a ballot drive to restrict a common second-trimester abortion procedure opponents call "dismemberment," and known medically as dilation and evacuation, during a news conference Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Lansing.

If the Michigan Values Life ballot committee gathers roughly 340,000 valid voter signatures within six months – which appears likely – lawmakers could enact the citizen-initiated bill despite Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s opposition. Right to Life of Michigan, the main organizer of the drive, has successfully initiated anti-abortion laws four times previously since 1987.

“The practice of dismemberment abortion is a barbaric form of violence against a living human being and it should be condemned by any civilized society,” the Rev. Paul Clark, president of Lutherans for Life of Michigan, said during a news conference at Right to Life’s office near the Capitol.

The dilation and evacuation procedure, in which the fetus is removed in pieces with a surgical instrument, was used in 1,908, or 7.1%, of abortions in the state in 2018. It accounted for more than half of all second-trimester abortions, including 80% done after the 16th week of pregnancy.

Abortion-rights advocates opposed to the ballot drive say the procedure is safe and doctors should not face prosecution for using it.

Whitmer, who has vowed to veto identical bills that were introduced as regular legislation, said she has confidence that voters “are on the right side of history right now when it comes to ensuring we protect safe and proven medical procedures and women’s autonomy over our health care choices.”

Officials said that as of Tuesday, volunteer circulators had ordered 44,000 petition sheets that have room for eight signatures each.

“We are covering the whole state with training, and that’s really why I think we have so many people coming forward right now,” said Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing.

The goal is to submit signatures by late November or early December. If the state elections board determines they are sufficient, legislators would have 40 days to pass, reject or ignore the initiative, which has an exception to protect a pregnant woman’s life. If the measure were disapproved or disregarded, the proposal would go to a statewide vote in November 2020.

Dilation and evacuation, or D&E, has been barred by 12 states. Bans are in effect in two but are enjoined in eight other states because of legal challenges. Prohibitions enacted by two other states are being challenged in court.

Separately, a second ballot committee is gathering signatures for a proposal that would ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, or as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.