Heated Senate Hearing on Abortion Bill

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Lawmakers are one step closer to passing legislation that would have an impact on abortions and abortion clinics all across Michigan. The Senate held a hearing Thursday to find out what the public thinks about the bill and comments were intense on both sides of the debate. Both sides of the issue strongly say they are the ones trying to support women.

"This very clearly is to protect women from coercion," said Senator Rick Jones, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Protect them from filthy abortion clinics that aren't licensed and to ensure that the product of an abortion is treated with respect."

"Certainly Planned Parenthood has only one thing in mind and that's the safety of women," said Lori Lamerand, the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan. "This is a political move and while we can say all day and night that this is about protecting women, if that were the case it would have been a more careful process and the product would certainly have been more careful and well done with experts involved."

In June the House passed the Abortion Bill, more formally known as HB-5711, now the Senate must decide. The hearing was to get public input, and that is exactly what it got.

"Anytime you take up legislation on abortion there is going to be some heated passions on both sides," said Jones. "We saw that today in the committee and that's fine."

The bill if it becomes law would add licensing, regulatory and insurance requirements for abortion clinics. It would also require screenings to ensure no woman is coerced into an abortion. Supports say that improves healthcare. Opponents say it limits access.

"You know, it's legislation at it's worst," said Lamerand. "Its even poorly written. I think as was highlighted today in the testimony is there are areas of common ground if this thing was appropriately done with experts involved, but none of that occurred."

Lamerand says if passed and signed by the governor it will mean abortion clinics will be put out of business on technicalities like the height of their ceilings and the width of their hallways because they will fall under the same regulations as freestanding outpatient surgical facilities.

However some medical professionals think the bill is a good idea.

"I believe that it's a good thing from the medical point of view, of the licensing and they are meeting certain safety standards and health standards just for the protection and the safety of the women that are undergoing abortions," said Craig Herr, a registered nurse from Battle Creek.

The bill bans any abortion past 20 weeks gestation. It also requires fetal remains to be disposed of respectfully either by cremation of through a funeral service. Currently there are about 30 abortion centers in the state, and less than a quarter of those are licensed.

The hearing featured passionate and at times emotional testimony from both sides of the issue.

"My belief is that anyone who want's to shrink their government needs to stay out of my vagina," said Rebecca La Duca, a resident from Ann Arbor.

A supporter of the bill told a story of a women receiving an abortion and later dying from the surgery because she was not given proper medical treatment.

The legislation is now headed to the Senate floor where some changes may occur. The Senate will return from recess in mid-August.

To see the complete minutes and testimony from the Senate hearing follow the link below.

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