Michigan's Republican-led Legislature has passed bills to ban a common abortion procedure, pushing ahead with legislation that is expected to be vetoed by Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Supporters of the legislation say it would restrict the use of a "barbaric" procedure that Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion advocates refer to as "dismemberment" abortion. The correct medical term for the procedure is dilation and evacuation. Opponents say the measures are blatantly unconstitutional and interfere with women's ability to access safe medical care. The procedure is used when there are rare, severe fetal abnormalities and serious risks to women’s health. The procedure was used in 1,777, or 6.7%, of abortions in Michigan in 2017. Supporters of the bills approved 22-16 by the Senate on a party-line vote Tuesday. Not long after, the House approved identical bills. Meanwhile, Right to Life is preparing to launch an identical citizens' initiative that could be enacted by lawmakers without Whitmer's signature.

All three Republican Livingston County lawmakers voted in favor. Representative Hank Vaupel of Fowlerville told WHMI at that time of age, he feels the fetus is a living human being and he supports the ban. In that particular procedure, he maintains a decision is being made to end a life and rather cruelly. Vaupel said he feels quite strongly about it and while doctors and patients should make medical decisions, he thinks this goes beyond just making a medical decision. Vaupel said he appreciates the doctor-patient relationship and certainly doctors are the ones who should be making decisions about health but to him, this is about taking a life and again, it goes beyond the doctor-patient relationship. Vaupel said he has heard rumblings about a citizen initiative on this but doesn’t know if it will happen or not. He says that holds no sway for him at all as he fully supports the ban – adding it all boils down to whether it’s right to take a life at that time and what someone believes.

State Representative Ann Bollin of Brighton Township issued the following statement: “I voted in favor of HB 4320 and 4321 because I believe the practice of dismemberment abortion is barbaric. As a cosponsor of this legislation I am proud of my colleagues’ actions today in support of the bill to speak for those that can’t speak for themselves.”

Senator Lana Theis issued the following statement: “While I understand that people have been told different things about what actually happens during an abortion, many mothers are misled about the nature of this procedure. The truth of dismemberment abortion is both graphic and gruesome – ultrasounds show babies can feel pain in the womb. This has been well documented, including recently in the film Unplanned, which I would recommend to anyone who questions the nature of this procedure. I am and always will be pro-life, and that’s why I voted to end this procedure in our state.”

The Michigan State Medical Society, which represents over 15,000 physicians caring for millions of patients statewide, opposes the legislation as does the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which represents all of the O-B-G-Y-N doctors in the state. The Michigan State Medical Society says main concerns include the potential criminal penalties that could be imposed and the concerning precedent the legislation sets with respect to interference into the sanctity and confidentiality of the physician-patient relationship. The Society says it would oppose any legislative interference that would hinder physician discretion to act within the standards of good medical practice and in the best interest of the patient. The full statement is attached.

Planned Parenthood of Michigan Director of Communications & Media Relations Angela Vasquez-Giroux told WHMI throughout the entire legislative process, those groups and other healthcare providers have come forward to tell lawmakers that they cannot enact a policy like this because the procedures are not one-size fits all cases and it will harm people. She says despite getting a plethora of advice from doctors, lawmakers aren’t listening and the people of Michigan deserve to know that their politicians think they are smarter than doctors and that that will be dictating their care moving forward. She says these are part of a coordinated attack on access to abortions and have seen this across the country since 2010 and there have been more than 400 medically unnecessary and politically motivated restrictions passed in state legislatures. She says nearly half of all the bills, like the ones passed in Michigan Tuesday, are aimed at banning abortions in some or all circumstances and what it really boils down to is an attempt to make abortion illegal for any person who needs one, for any reason.

As for the citizen initiative, Vasquez-Giroux says they fully expected this to happen and have been planning for it, adding they will continue the fight as they have fought everything else politicians have done in the past 10-15 years. She further stressed that the way groups like Right to Life are characterizing a procedure like a D & E is completely false and misleading - noting it’s designed to be inflammatory and scare people and make them feel uncomfortable. She says, "the reality is that when that type of language is used, it really emboldens some people who don’t need that encouragement and it ends in more confrontation, intimidation and violence for doctors who provide this type of care and the patients who need it."

Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer vowed to veto the bills once they get to her desk, which would be next week at the earliest. In a Facebook post, Whitmer said the legislature knows that she will not sign any laws that deprive women of bodily autonomy, so right now, they are just wasting time on the taxpayers dime. She says “there are plenty of issues they could take up - they could get serious about fixing the roads and paying for it, redrawing gerrymandered districts, closing the skills gap or better educating our kids. Does any taxpayer really want their elected officials to solely focus on issues that divide us, while ignoring the real problems Michigan needs to solve? I don’t think so. I don’t. I want results.”

Abortion-rights supporters say the legislation is unconstitutional. Courts have blocked bans on the procedure in other states, and the issue could ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. (JM)