Last month, Michigan’s house of representatives received national attention for passing a package of pro-life bills. Among the provisions were (1) making it a crime to coerce women into having abortions (2); requiring humane disposition of aborted babies (3); prohibiting the prescription the abortion drug RU-486 remotely over the Internet (4); strengthening the liability insurance requirements for abortion providers; and (5) more thorough licensing and inspection requirements for abortion clinics. The omnibus bill passed by a 70–39 vote and the Michigan senate will likely take action on the legislation in September.
On the surface, these provisions do not sound all that polarizing. In fact the most controversial measure — a law that would have effectively banned abortion after 20 weeks — was tabled by the state legislature. Regardless, supporters of legal abortion were shrill in their opposition. Planned Parenthood called the legislation the “biggest assault on women’s health in our state’s history.” State representative Lisa Brown (D., West Bloomfield) even performed the undignified The Vagina Monologues on the steps of the state capitol in Lansing.
Much of this opposition is likely due to the licensing and inspection requirements. According to Michigan state representative Deb Shaughnessy “only three of 30 surgical abortion clinics in Michigan are licensed and inspected as outpatient surgical facilities.”
#more#Furthermore, some abortion clinics have operated for decades in this state without ever being inspected. Similar to the regulations put in place in Virginia, these new rules would regulate abortion clinics in a manner similar to hospitals. As I have commented previously, supporters of legal abortion are well aware of the potency of “supply side” strategies like clinic regulations in limiting abortions.
During the past 25 years, Michigan has become a quiet leader in enacting state-level pro-life legislation. The state quit funding therapeutic abortions through its Medicaid program in 1988. It enacted a pro-life parental-involvement law in 1991. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 1992 Casey decision, it became among the first states to enact a Casey-style informed-consent law which required women to view color photos of fetal development prior to the abortion. The law was passed in 1993; however, it did not take effect until 1999 due to various legal challenges.
Progress has come on other fronts as well. Last month Planned Parenthood of mid and south Michigan abandoned their plans to open up a 17,055 square foot abortion mega clinic in Auburn Hills, Mich. Pro-lifers, led by Monica Miller of Citizens for Pro-Life Society, were very active in their opposition to this clinic. They aggressively publicized the fact that Planned Parenthood was less than forthright about their motives when they acquired the property in 2010. Lawyers representing the hotel chain which sold the property to Planned Parenthood sued — arguing that the property deed did not allow for abortions to be performed at that site. Instead of pursuing further litigation, Planned Parenthood has decided to put the property up for sale.
The most visible debates over abortion tend to take place at the federal level. However, these recent developments in Michigan provide great evidence that pro-life efforts at the state and local level often make an important difference.