Christine Dhanagom


Partial-birth abortion ban passes in landslide votes in Michigan legislature

Christine Dhanagom

LANSING, September 22, 2011 ( - A bill that would ban partial-birth abortion passed the Michigan state legislature in landslide votes yesterday.

SB 160, which bans the procedure except when it is deemed necessary to save the mother’s life, was approved by the Senate in a vote of 29-8. A companion bill establishing a two year prison sentence for doctors who violate the law was also passed.

The House version of the bill passed later that day, 75-33.

Although partial birth abortion has been illegal in all 50 states since the passage of the federal partial birth abortion ban act in 2003, sponsors of the Michigan bill say that state legislation is necessary to ensure enforcement on the local level.

“These measures will empower our local police departments, county prosecutors, and the Michigan attorney general to enforce this law,” said Senator Geoff Hansen, who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Arlan Meekhof.

“Enacting these proposed laws will help ensure that partial birth abortion remains illegal in Michigan regardless of what Congress or the president may do,” he added.

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The legislation carries personal significance for Meekhof, who was adopted as a baby.  Meekhof says he is grateful to his birth mother for choosing life rather than aborting him. 

“Life is precious and it must be defended. I believe one of our duties as senators is to do everything we can to protect life,” he said.

According a Michigan Messenger report, Senate Democrats had attempted unsuccessfully to add amendments that would allow the procedure in earlier stages of pregnancy, expand the exemption to include non-life threatening health considerations, and promote birth control and sex education.

Senate Democrat Bert Johnson criticized Republicans for losing focus on job creation, calling the bill “class warfare.”

“Jobs is the No. 1 item we’re working on,” Hansen told the Muskegon Chronicle, adding, “but we can’t be paralyzed in other things we’re doing.”

The Michigan Catholic Conference praised the legislation in a statement released yesterday afternoon.

“Banning partial-birth abortion in our state is the most common sense policy a civilized society could enact. There is no place in our state for those who seek to terminate the life of an unborn child partially delivered from his or her mother,” said Michigan Catholic Conference President and C.E.O. Paul A. Long

“With a 15 year struggle now behind us, and with legal and political obstacles having been removed, Michigan Catholic Conference looks forward to Governor Snyder signing the ban into law,” Long added.

A spokesperson from the Governor’s office told the Messenger that Snyder “is supportive of a ban on partial birth abortions and will likely sign the legislation.”

Similar legislation was vetoed twice by former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. Granholm’s first veto, in 2003, was successfully overridden after a “People’s Override” petition drive collected 460,000 signatures.

The 2003 law, however, was struck down by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the law was unconstitutional.

Meekhof and Hansen’s legislation is modeled after the federal ban, which has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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