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Calls for Veto as "Anti-Women Super Bill" Heads to Michigan Governor's Desk

Lame duck passage of extreme anti-choice legislation faces backlash

- Jon Queally, staff writer

A statewide group of protesters gathered in June at the Capitol to oppose abortion bills pending in the House of Representatives. The group was going into the Capitol to listen to the debate. (Photo: Motleynews.net)Women's health advocates and pro-choice supporters are livid in Michigan and across the country after the state Senate in Lansing passed HB 5711, an omnibus piece of legislation that its critics are calling an "anti-choice Super Bill," on Wednesday.

The legislation, designed to limit women's access to abortion and other health care services by placing higher burdens on health professionals in the state, say opponents, is the most extreme kind of law-making pushed by the rightwing anti-choice movement and Republican-controlled state legislatures in recent years.

“HB 5711 is a prime example of deceptive nature of the national anti-choice agenda," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights, who called on Republican Governor Rick Snyder to veto the bill.

"Under the pretext of protecting women’s health, this bill would completely undermine women’s access to safe and affordable reproductive care—and ultimately place their lives and well-being at risk," Northup said.

The law had previously passed the House, but will return there for a final vote—where it is assured to pass—before heading to Snyder's desk for signature.  Notably, all of this takes place within a lame duck session of the state government, with the Republican majority on its way out the door in January following losses at the polls in November.

"It's hard to believe that this sort of assault on women is continuing after an 18 point gender gap on election day and the women of Michigan standing up and calling on the legislature not to take up this kind of legislation," Meghan Hodge Groen, Director of Government Relations for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan told RH RealityCheck in an interview Wednesday.

And, as RHRC's Robin Marty points out, even though the law "passed soundly in both chambers, they were not passed with a veto-proof majority, making Republican Governor Rick Snyder the last chance to stop the bill from becoming law."

"This is clearly the wrong decision for Michigan and this isn't going to do anything to move Michigan forward," said Groen. "We call on Governor Snyder to recognize the will of Michigan voters and veto this extreme legislation."

Think Progress breaks down the five reasons which make HB 5711 the worst anti-choice bill ever:

1) Bans Abortions After 20 Weeks, Even For Rape And Incest Victims: A woman would not be able to have an abortion after 20 weeks of gestation based on the widely disputed idea that a fetus can feel pain after that point. The only exception would be if a woman’s life was in danger.

2) Transforms Doctors Into Detectives: The Republican-backed legislation would make it a crime for anyone to coerce a woman into having an abortion. Doctors will have to give their patients a questionnaire to inform them of the illegality of coercion and determine if the woman had been coerced or is the victim of domestic abuse before the abortion procedure.

3) Limits Access For Rural Women: Under the omnibus bill, doctors would have to be physically present to perform a medication abortion, thus preventing a doctor from administering abortion-inducing medication by consulting via telephone or internet. This would especially hurt rural women, who may have to travel hours to meet in-person with a specialist.

4) Requires Doctors To Purchase Costly Malpractice Insurance: If HB 5711 goes into effect, then doctors would be required to carry $1 million in liability insurance if they perform five or more abortions each month or have been subject to two more more civil suits in the past seven years, among other requirements. But the qualifications are so vague that almost all doctors who perform abortions could be required to carry the additional liability insurance at a potential cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

5) Regulates Clinics Out Of Existence: HB 5711 would create new regulations so that any clinic that provides six or more abortions in a month or one which advertises abortion services would have to be licensed as a “freestanding surgical outpatient facility.” That means that even if a clinic does not offer surgical abortions, it would be required to have a full surgical suite.

"If Governor Snyder signs these bills, women in Michigan would lose access to safe and legal abortion—and a range of other health services," said Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards.

"Women—and the men who love them," Richards said, "are counting on the governor to heed the message sent on election night: we simply will not tolerate politicians inserting themselves into a woman's personal health care decisions."

Despite the uproar, the governor is expected to sign the bill into law. As he did in the recent fight to approve a much maligned 'Corporate Servitude Law'—signed on Tuesday—Snyder is clearly willing to use the lame duck legislature to pass enormously unpopular laws in his state.