healthcare, War on Women, Women — November 10, 2015 at 7:16 pm

Michigan House committee approves bills to criminalize safe abortion method


Right to Life-backed bills would legislate substandard care for pregnant women by making a legal procedure illegal.

With their non-solution to road funding as a prime example, Michigan Republicans keep proving they’re not very good legislators. They’d make even worse doctors — especially since none of them have medical licenses.

But that’s not stopping them from playing doctor. Legislation that would dictate what abortion method doctors can use passed out of the Michigan House Criminal Justice Committee today, with a 5-3 vote along party lines.

As I’ve written here before, House Bills 4833 and 4834 would criminalize the safest abortion procedure for women after 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The abortion method Right to Life and their supporters in the Michigan Legislature are trying to outlaw is sometimes necessary to avoid the risk of complications when an abortion is necessary at this stage. Potential complications for pregnant women include heavy bleeding and the risk of uterine infection and other complications that can be minimized by using this surgical abortion method, called dilation and evacuation (D&E).

Although medical professionals and pro-choice advocates were in Lansing to testify at the second hearing on these bills today, the committee went straight to a vote without any testimony from either side.

After the vote, Merissa Kovach, field organizer for the ACLU of Michigan and co-director of the MI Lead women’s coalition, had this to say:

The legislators on the committee who voted for these bills knew what they did was wrong. Despite the voices of many doctors, medical students and women across the state, they moved a bill that legislates substandard care for pregnant women. This isn’t legislation that’s supported by the medical community and doesn’t follow medical standards of care. It’s legislation supported by and written by an extremist special interest group and politicians that are out of touch with women across the state of Michigan.

Despite medical evidence that D&E is the most common abortion method at this stage, the supporters of the legislation continue peddling misinformation to advance their ultimate goal: outlawing abortion entirely.

Frustratingly, some media outlets are perpetuating this misinformation campaign by using Right to Life’s language and referring to the procedure as “dismemberment abortion,” which is not a medical term. In its coverage of today’s vote, MLive stated that “the legislation’s sponsor Rep. Laura Cox, R-Livonia, told the committee previously that this type of abortion was ‘not legitimate medicine.'”

Rep. Cox’s statement is simply not true. D&E is the standard of care after 14 weeks of pregnancy, which is why OB/GYNs like Matthew Allswede, MD, FACOG, vice-chair of the Michigan Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), have been diligently trying to educate the committee on the facts about this abortion method. He shared the same information with me for a previous post.

In addition, there were medical students at today’s hearing who were there because they want to give their future patients the best care possible based on science and medical standards — not the whims of politicians.

Ultimately, of course, HBs 4833 and 4834 aren’t really about healthcare at all. They’re about ideology. After the vote, Democratic committee members pushed back against legislation that would put women who choose to end a pregnancy at risk.

“These bills are not about medicine. They are instead about playing politics — and this could put the health of Michigan women in jeopardy by interfering with the doctor-patient relationship,” said committee member Rep. Stephanie Chang.

House Criminal Justice Committee vice chairwoman, Rep. Vanessa Guerra, had this to say:

This goes beyond denying a woman a choice. This legislation mandates how doctors practice medicine. If that procedure is what’s medically best for the woman, then it should be legal and the doctor should be able to perform what he or she and the patient decide is best. While there may be differing opinions on the matter of choice in our state, we cannot advance laws that will cause detrimental harm to women. All women deserve to have the best, safest options available to them, even if they don’t decide to end a pregnancy at all.

“Today is a sad day for the health of women in our state,” added committee member Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright. “With this vote we have effectively dismissed the best advice of medical professionals and substituted the ideological agenda of special interest groups. In no other circumstance would it be acceptable for a bunch of politicians to step into the exam room and dictate how a doctor performs his or her job.”

Following the vote, MLive interviewed one of the citizens who came to the hearing to oppose the legislation, Giancarlo Guzman, who is expecting a child with his wife. He told MLive “he doesn’t like thinking outside influences could be in the room when his doctor is making decisions.” The article went on to quote him.

‘We just feel very strongly that we want our doctor using their best medical judgement when helping us figure out what is best for us and our child moving forward in a pregnancy,’ Guzman said.

Doctors, medical students, women and men of Michigan have all voiced opposition to legislation that would interfere with women’s ability to get the best possible care — care that’s based on medical standards and science, not religious ideology. But the House Criminal Justice Committee chose politics over patient care.

Chances are good that Right to Life will continue pushing for these bills to be taken up by the full House. If that happens, everyone in Michigan who believes legislators and extremist groups should stay out of personal medical decisions needs to be ready to take action to oppose these bills. The lives of pregnant women could be at stake.

We’ll keep you posted here at Eclectablog, and you can also sign up for alerts from the MI Lead women’s coalition.

[Image credit: Charlotte Cooper, via Flickr.]