Should the Legislature enact changes to abortion law?

A broad package of bills dealing with Michigan regulations on abortion were filed in the Legislature on May 31. Within a week, they had advanced to the full House of Representatives. On June 13, after a heated debate that has drawn national attention to Michigan, one bill, House Bill 5711, passed with 70 votes in the House. Bridge asked representatives of two groups central to the debate to address the question of whether change is needed in state abortion law.

No: Michigan House's
focus on abortion
misguided, dangerous

By Lori Lamerand/Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan

In passing House Bill 5711, our state representatives have ignored the desperate needs of women for affordable reproductive health care, especially in these tough economic times. Instead, they’ve decided to play doctor.

HB 5711, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Rendon (R-Lake City), is a sweeping, 58-page bill that moved through the House this month with unprecedented speed and a lack of any reasonable analysis as to its costs or consequences.

The bill includes a requirement that health centers providing abortion must build “freestanding surgical outpatient” operating rooms. Never mind that medication abortions involve the administration of pills, not surgery. This onerous requirement could force all such health centers to comply with unnecessary regulations at great expense or stop providing abortion care, denying women access to safe, legal medical procedures. 

The devastating threat to women’s health care doesn’t end there. HB 5711 also carries increased liability insurance requirements for doctors who perform abortions. This is an onerous obligation that is not required for other more complicated OB/GYN procedures, or for any other medical specialty. It also ignores the fact that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures.

This unnecessary intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship only will dissuade physicians from wanting to practice in Michigan. Already, 21 of Michigan’s 83 counties do not have a single OB/GYN provider, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health. It’s ironic that a bill that purports to have the safety of women at heart will only serve to make safe, professional reproductive health care harder to obtain.

Still waiting to be taken up by the House is House Bill 5713, sponsored by Rep. Deb Shaughnessy (R-Charlotte), which makes it illegal to perform an abortion after 20 weeks unless it’s necessary to preserve the life of the mother. The bill makes no exception for rape, incest or the health of the mother. Pregnancy complications are the sixth leading cause of death of women ages 20 to 24. Do we really need politicians deciding when and how doctors can safely treat those complications?

We all know that the preventing unplanned pregnancies is the surest way to end abortion in Michigan. In a state where 53 percent of pregnancies are unplanned, it makes more sense to invest in education, access to birth control and family planning services, while continuing to make sure that abortion care is available for those who need it.

Ninety-seven percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are preventive, life-saving procedures, including annual exams, breast exams, birth control, testing and treatment of STDs, and sex education. We serve patients on a sliding fee scale and, for the vast majority, a trip to Planned Parenthood is the only health care they’ll receive in a given year. If legislators want to end abortion in Michigan, the best thing they can do is support the organization wholly dedicated to preventing unplanned pregnancies: Planned Parenthood.

Investment in prevention is also fiscally responsible. Sixty-two percent of births from unintended pregnancies are publicly funded, costing taxpayers about $282 million annually.

The Legislature’s obsessive focus on banning abortion is extreme and misguided, placing the health and safety of thousands of women at risk. The House is now in recess and it will be incumbent upon the Senate to put women’s health care before partisan politics. 

We urge them to take their responsibility seriously. Michigan women are watching — and they vote. 

Yes: Abortion industry's
substandard medical
practices must end

By Pamela Sherstad/Right to Life Michigan

A bill addressing the substandard medical practices of the abortion industry has caused, what appears to be, a great deal of misguided uproar by those who oppose the legislation.  The Michigan House of Representatives advanced House Bill 5711 by a bipartisan vote of 70-39 on June 13. The important question to ask is, “What is in this bill, given all the controversy surrounding it?”

Before we can discuss HB 5711 and the details of its contents, it is important to clearly state what HB 5711 is not. It is not about the legality of abortion. It is important to know that the United States Supreme Court created a federal constitutional right to abortion in the 1973 decisions of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Abortion is legal through all nine months of pregnancy.
HB 5711 is about the unchecked abortion industry in Michigan. 
HB 5711 is a combination of five previously introduced bills rolled into a single, omnibus bill. The bill amends the Michigan Public Health Code to bring about long overdue reforms to the state’s abortion industry.
In brief, HB 5711 will:

* 1. Require all surgical abortion clinics to be licensed and inspected by the state.

* 2. Require abortion clinics to screen women for coercion to abort.

* 3. Prohibit prescribing and dispensing RU-486 abortion pills via Internet webcam connections.

* 4. Require the humane disposition of aborted baby bodies.

* 5. Require abortionists with bad medical records to carry a minimum amount of malpractice insurance.
Abortion is an invasive surgical procedure developed to end the life of an unborn child. The abortion procedure also can lead to serious medical complications for a woman. According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, 23,307 abortions were performed in 2010. Potential complications for abortion include, but are not limited to, bleeding, hemorrhage, infection, uterine perforation, blood clots, cervical tears, incomplete abortion, and cardiac arrest.
I attended a committee hearing that addressed serious abortion industry concerns. The Michigan Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Licensing & Regulatory Affairs heard testimony on abortion clinic abuses in Michigan. To hear about the substandard medical practices of Michigan’s abortion industry was shocking.

A few of the abuses noted during the hearing including: violation of bio-hazard waste disposal and medical record privacy laws; negligent operative and post-operative practices that have resulted in patient injury and death; and refusal to release medical records for patient use and patient follow-up care.

From what I learned during the committee hearing, Michigan has a public health problem.
Michigan lawmakers have a duty and responsibility to act when there is a public health problem. According to the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, a state has “a legitimate interest in seeing to it that abortion, like any other medical procedure, is performed under circumstances that ensure maximum safety for the patient.” Plainly, Michigan lawmakers are working within their authority to intervene regarding substandard practices within the abortion industry.
There are very good reasons why this legislation passed by a 70-39 vote, common sense and true concern for women's health being among them. I only wish the lawmakers had acted 39 years ago. Too many women in Michigan have been put at risk.

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Thu, 06/21/2012 - 8:25am
If Ms. Sherstad thinks abortion clinics are sub-standard today, wait until this bill is passed and back-alley operations become the norm. This bill will set medical practice back 100 years. Right to Life and their partners the Catholic Church and Michigan House Republicans operate just like the Taliban. Their "religious" mindset must be observed by everyone.
Vincent Delgado
Thu, 06/21/2012 - 9:12am
I think policy should be made using data. Ms. Sherstad is very careful in her piece to avoid it. She says that the bill is a response to the "unchecked abortion industry in Michigan." And then she proceeds to give absolutely no evidence. She says abortions "can lead to serious medical complications" and then she lists some terrible sounding complications. But then a lot of things can cause complications. So exactly how many complications by category for women have the 20,000+ abortions created? Ms. Sherstad gives us no data. She makes no mention of it. Instead she smooths that out by describing testimony at a hearing on the bills. But she doesn't say who gave the testimony. That hearing has been questioned for not allowing experts in the field to testify. But, again, data -- in this case who is testifying -- is avoided by Ms. Sherstad. For years, we trusted our representatives to make sound policy decisions based on data. We trusted news organizations to require that data. We expected an educated populace to support representatives who gave sound proof for their policies. We entered wars because of evidence of real threats to our citizens. We regulated industries based on evidence-based threats to our health. That seems to have changed. If I were to go back a couple of decades, a trusted politician such as Ronald Reagan would ask of this piece: "Where's the beef?" The response today when questions like that are asked appears to be more investment in public relations strategies so that policy is made simply by turning up the volume and careful political calibrations.
Tue, 07/10/2012 - 12:14pm
Mr. Delgado, Did you consider the alleged "data" that Ms. Lamerand provided? Here are the unsubstatiated and unsourced "facts" she provides: 1) “Freestanding surgical outpatient operating rooms... could force all such health centers to comply with unnecessary regulations at great expense or stop providing abortion care, denying women access to safe, legal medical procedures." Dire predictions, completely unfounded. 2) The "onerous obligation (of liability insurance is) an unnecessary intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship (that) only will dissuade physicians from wanting to practice in Michigan." Again, as prediction without any substantiating evidence. Also disingenuous in that ABORTIONISTS will carry the insurance not ALL physicians. Pretty silly to claim insurance violates the abortionist-patient relationship. It seems to me women should want to see a doctor who has malpractice/liability insurance. 3) She cites MDCH figures that show 21 of 83 counties don't have an OB-GYN. True, perhaps. Also irrelevant to this discussion. Also irrelevant in our era of the automobile. I live within 12 miles of three counties. I'm within 30 miles of a couple more. Women don't have to cross the continental divide to see a doctor. 4) Ms. Lamerand writes, "Pregnancy complications are the sixth leading cause of death of women ages 20 to 24." She provides no source (again) but I have no reason to doubt the figures. What she doesn't say in condemning HB 5713 is that studies have proved unborn babies FEEL PAIN starting at 20 weeks. Legislators' concern that late-term abortions torture the unborn is the basis for the bill. Ms. Lamerand evidently does not share their concern. According to the MDCH, from 2008-2010 Michigan has averaged 242 abortions each year on babies at 19 weeks or more post-fertilization (21 weeks or more from the mother's last menstrual period). These babies are 1 PERCENT of those aborted, yet to the abortion lobby for which Ms. Lamerand speaks even humane legislation that would spare the 1 percent an agonizing death is intolerable. 5) She writes, "Pregnancy complications are the sixth leading cause of death of women ages 20 to 24." True, perhaps. I'd have to look it up since Ms. Lamerand offers no citation. Anyway, the data is not directly pertinent to this discussion. By providing this data, she wants her readers to jump to the false conclusion that abortion is commonly used to save the mother's life. She also ignores this fact from the MDCH: In 2009, abortion was the leading cause of death in Michigan, followed closely by heart disease and cancer. Go here to see leading causes of death data: . And go here for abortion and pregnancy data: . 6) Again, no citation for the claim that "53 percent of pregnancies are unplanned." Fine. I'll take Ms. Lamerand at her word. This data is irrelevant to the discussion at hand anyway. Unplanned doesn't equate to unwanted. Planned Parenthood's solution to an unplanned pregnancy is to kill the baby. The PPFA annual report shows that PP affiliates perform about 390 abortions for every adoption. Why? Because abortion is BIG BUSINESS. This turned out to be a bigger assignment that I thought but I am almost finished laying Ms. Lamerand's article to rest. 7) She claims 97 percent of PP's services are "preventive, life-saving procedures." Again no citation, though I presume the data comes from PPFA. I will give her the benefit of the doubt. The problem is PP counts EVERYTHING as a service, from giving out birth control to pregnancy tests to abortion. What she doesn't say is that abortion accounts for an estimated 40 percent of PPFA's income. She is deliberately misleading readers into thinking that abortion is a small percentage (no more than 3%) of PP's business. I reiterate, abortion is BIG BUSINESS, which is why Planned Parenthood opposes any and all legislation it deems a threat to their business, even to the point of denying that unborn babies feel pain. 8) Then she puts a price on the heads of unborn babies, claiming (again, without sources): "Sixty-two percent of births from unintended pregnancies are publicly funded, costing taxpayers about $282 million annually." Is this 62 percent just Michigan? The whole nation? Which taxpayers? Michiganians? All Americans? Her data is useless as presented. It is also misapplied. HB 5713 would only prohibit abortions after 20 weeks. As I noted earlier, this is the small -- but no meaningless -- 1 percent group. Incidentally, many INTENDED pregnancies are also publicly funded. It's the price of living in a society where we try to help people in need. Moral of the story for Ms. Lamerand: killing babies saves the government money. 9) Utter hyperbole, completely opinionated and unsubstantiated: "The Legislature’s obsessive focus on banning abortion is extreme and misguided, placing the health and safety of thousands of women at risk." 10) Ms. Lamerand concludes her article with the common but utterly false claim that she and the abortion lobby speak for ALL women: "Michigan women are watching — and they vote." Yes they do, which is why we have a prolife legislature that will pass HB 5711 in September. The Michigan Senate is a strong prolife majority AND our senators are not up for reelection in 2012. Nothing Ms. Lamerand or Rep. Lisa Brown or the abortion lobby can say or do will stop this commonsense legislation from passing. Wait until Michigan passes the pending abortion opt-out legislation that will prevent Obamacare from forcing taxpayers to pay for insurance plans that include abortion. Then the pro-aborts will really be angry.
Chuck Fellows
Thu, 06/21/2012 - 9:13am
This whole issue is a conservative attempt to impose a belief system, not a theory or factual argument, upon individuals. Very telling is the comment that Ms. Sherstad learned at the committee hearing that we have a public health problem. That's conclusion is erroneous since testimony was not allowed at the committee hearing. This kind of behavior is a replication of the Salem witch trials. Conservatives are just simply "nuts". This legislation is wrong.
Thu, 06/21/2012 - 2:01pm
This is NOT what I want to see happen in Michigan. All of these bills are designed to restrict a woman's choice. Pamela and the rest of the religious right need to stay out of my life and out of my vagina.
Thu, 06/21/2012 - 10:47pm
This bill isn't banning abortion. It's not even really limiting abortions. Have any of you actually READ the bill? I did. It's pretty long - but not that complicated. It defines and asks for appropriate disposal of a dead fetus - specifies that said dead fetus could be from any cause, up to and including an abortion. That no part of the deceased fetus can be taken for things like medical experimentation. That abortion clinics must be licensed JUST LIKE ANY OTHER MEDICAL CLINIC. That just like doctor's offices or emergency rooms they screen women for coercion. That women cannot receive medical treatment via video cam - oh wow -they need to actually BE EXAMINED by a doctor before receiving medical treatment! Oh, and that doctors who provide abortions who have poor medical records need to actually carry malpractice insurance. So, tell me,really, where in any of this is there actual harm to women? Looks to me that people are shrieking about the state treating an abortion clinic like ANY OTHER MEDICAL CLINIC. We don't scream that we are being denied basic health care if we require hospitals and clinics to be licensed, do we? Or to dispose of remains and body parts properly? Or to actually examine a patient before prescribing them stuff? And since when is requiring malpractice insurance for ANY doctor "preventing" them from practicing? ESPECIALLY if they already have a poor record? Seriously - are you kidding me? None of this is a bad thing. And yes, I'm a woman, I have a vagina, I have been pregnant. And remember the part where I said I actually read the bill myself. You might want to try that, folks. Then maybe you won't sound like animatronic parrots.
Fri, 06/22/2012 - 1:11pm
And it is estimated that this bill will close 28 of the 32 clinics in Michigan. November will put the religious right back under their rock.
Save Life
Sun, 07/08/2012 - 12:44pm
Planned "prevention of parenthood",also known as planned parenthood is just plain evil. Planned "prevention of" parenthood never fight for parents or the right for children to have a life. They always fight for abortion. HB5711 in Michigan is trying to at least get standards put in place for the evil practice of abortion. Lori Lamerand and planned abortion hood would support a rusty coat hanger if it got the job done. If the devil wears Prada, what size are yours Lori
Mon, 07/09/2012 - 5:18pm
It's sad that the abortion industry - or the Michigan State Medical Society - do not weed out the bad doctors. Instead "anti-choice" Republicans, urged on by Right to Life of Michigan, have to introduce this legislation accurately described by Lisa. I read the 43 page document, too - as well as RTLM's 52 page summary of the abuses (gleaned from State health agency records). I do not understand why Lori Lammerand defends bad abortion doctors when one of Planned Parenthood's doctors described conditions at one of the targeted abortion center as "woefully inadequate and substandard"