Ban on fetal tissue profits passes Michigan House

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — With little fanfare and no debate, Michigan’s Republican-led House voted late Wednesday to enact new penalties against anyone who would knowingly profit from the sale of tissue from an aborted fetus.

Michigan law already prohibits the sale of fetal tissue, but the new proposal would specify that a physician or employee “shall not knowingly financially benefit” from a transaction or exchange.

Violators could face a maximum of five years in prison under the legislation, which now heads back to the state Senate for final consideration with just one full day left in the two-year session.

The main bill in the package passed the House in a 69-37 vote with support from the Republican majority and a handful of Democrats, including Minority Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills.

State Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair, introduced the legislation in late 2015 amid public outcry over heavily edited videos that appeared to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of abortion remains.

Planned Parenthood has maintained that is doesn’t profit from fetal tissue, and the organization was cleared of wrongdoing after a Texas grand jury investigation. The anti-abortion activists who created the videos were indicted on various criminal charges, including attempting to buy fetal tissue themselves, but they, too, were eventually cleared.

Critics have questioned the need for the new Michigan proposal because it seeks to prohibit activities generally barred under existing state law.

There is no evidence that illegal sales of fetal tissue are occurring in Michigan, the state health and regulatory affairs departments said last year after Pavlov called for an investigation.

It’s unclear whether the legislation would lead to any new incarceration costs for the state, according to the non-partisan House Fiscal Agency.

“It is unknown how many persons, if any, would be convicted under the provisions of the bill,” according to the agency.

The legislation includes exemptions for physicians at a hospital, research performed on a fetus with the consent of the mother or to burial or cremation.