Panel OKs bills banning 2nd trimester abortion practice

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — A Michigan House committee advanced legislation Tuesday that would expand Michigan’s ban on partial birth abortions to outlaw a common second-trimester procedure opponents say amounts to “dismemberment” of the fetus.

The bills would prohibit physicians from using the dilation and evacuation procedure to use forceps or another medical instrument to scrape a woman’s uterus and remove a fetus in pieces. The procedure is generally used after 13 weeks of pregnancy. In 2014, the dilation and evacuation procedure accounted for 2,264 or 8 percent of the 27,629 reported abortions in Michigan, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

“They literally rip tiny human beings limb from limb,” said Genevieve Marnon, a public affairs associate for the anti-abortion group Right to Life of Michigan.

About 86 percent of all abortions occurred during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, state data shows.

The legislation amends a 2011 ban on partial-birth abortions by changing the title of the law to the “Partial-birth Abortion and Dismemberment Abortion Ban Act.”

The legislation would make it a felony punishable by up to two years in prison and a $50,000 fine for performing the procedure in a way the dismembers a fetus.

Abortion rights advocates and physicians who have testified against the legislation contend it shouldn’t ban the entire dilation and evacuation procedure. “This is yet another example of where our legislators are trying to legislate what happens in medical procedures of which they know little about,” said Lori Carpentier, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan.

“There’s medical technicalities of this that don’t line up with the wording of the legislation.”

Abortion procedures involving the suction of a fetus from the uterus would remain legal. That procedure is the most common method of ending a pregnancy and accounts for 66 percent of all reported abortions in Michigan last year, according to state data.

Rep. Laura Cox, R-Livonia, is sponsoring the two-bill package, House Bills 4833 and 4834.

Right to Life of Michigan is pushing for passage of the legislation in response to a series of controversial Internet videos that abortion opponents say proves Planned Parenthood is selling the organs of fetuses for profit in violation of federal law.

“Dismemberment abortion is the procedure they use to get the organs to sell,” Marnon said.

Carpentier said that’s not the case in Michigan.

“Planned Parenthood in Michigan does not participate in fetal tissue donation,” she said.

The five men on the Republican-controlled House Criminal Justice Committee voted to advance the bills Tuesday morning to the House floor.

The three Democrats on the committee, all women, voted against the bills, arguing it eliminates a safe abortion procedure.

“These bills are not about medicine,” state Rep. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, said in a statement. “They are instead about playing politics — and this could put the health of Michigan women in jeopardy by interfering with the doctor-patient relationship.”

The Associated Press contributed.