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SHERSTAD: Michigan H.B. 5711 regulates abortion industry

Needed reforms promote respect for life

- - Wednesday, January 2, 2013

On Dec. 28, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill addressing the substandard medical practices of the abortion industry. Mr. Snyder said he signed House Bill 5711 "because of its important and reasonable emphasis on protecting the health and wellness of pregnant women in Michigan."

It is important to note that H.B. 5711 is not about the legality of abortion. The U.S. Supreme Court created a federal constitutional right to abortion in the 1973 decisions of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Abortion remains legal in the United States through all nine months of pregnancy. H.B. 5711 is about the unchecked abortion industry in Michigan.

The bill brings about long-overdue reform and regulation of the abortion industry. This law also is needed to prevent women from being coerced into abortions, to end the reprehensible practice of disposing of the bodies of aborted babies in garbage cans and to avoid the chemical abortion drug RU-486 from being dispensed via the Internet. The law amends the Michigan Public Health Code to bring about these reforms.

Recent events reinforce the need for regulation. There have been several instances of aborted babies' bodies being found in common trash bins. A 52-page report compiled by Right to Life of Michigan used state documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act to reveal a pattern of deeply entrenched illegal and unethical practices throughout Michigan's abortion industry. The fact that 28 of 32 abortion clinics in Michigan are unlicensed and have not been inspected shows the absence of any meaningful regulation.

The need for H.B. 5711 was demonstrated when the occupancy permit for the Women's Medical Services abortion clinic in Muskegon, Mich., was revoked on Dec. 26, two days before Mr. Snyder signed the bill. The notice stated, "This building shall not be occupied until approval has been granted by the Fire Prevention Bureau of the City of Muskegon."

Public support for this legislation is clear and strong. A survey conducted by Marketing Resource Group found that 85 percent of people in Michigan favored legislation requiring abortion clinics to be licensed and inspected. Overwhelming support came from every demographic category, including those who described themselves as pro-choice.

The sensitive issue of abortion touches many, but the common-sense aspects of H.B. 5711 prevailed. The bill holds the abortion industry to the same health and safety standards as other medical providers. Patients' safety now will be put ahead of abortion profits.

Characterizations of H.B. 5711 as a regressive attack on women's rights are disconnected from the reality of the new law. Similar regulations were implemented during 2012 in Maryland and Pennsylvania, with none of the dire consequences that are being predicted for Michigan.

Using euphemisms such as "choice" or "pregnancy termination" to describe abortion separates the term from its meaning. Simply put, abortion is used to end the life of a baby preparing to be born. More than 85 percent of abortions in Michigan are invasive surgical procedures. In addition to ending the life of a baby, the abortion procedure also can lead to serious medical complications for the mother. According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, 23,366 abortions were performed in 2011. Potential complications for abortion include, but are not limited to, bleeding, hemorrhage, infection, uterine perforation, blood clots, cervical tears, incomplete abortion and cardiac arrest.

While the number of abortions performed in Michigan has decreased by more than half since 1987, the need for abortion-business oversight is clear. One might think those organizations that work to keep abortion legal also would be concerned for the safety of the procedure. Sadly, this was not the case in Michigan. When given the opportunity to provide input during a committee hearing, representatives from Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Organization for Women and the American Association of University Women opposed H.B. 5711.

Since Jan. 22, 1973, more than 55 million unborn babies have been aborted in the United States. Their opportunity for life was taken away violently by two U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Despite this tragedy, protectors of life have worked for four decades to save vulnerable members of our human family.

Some have asked why Right to Life of Michigan supports such legislation when the legislation does not outlaw abortion. The mission of Right to Life of Michigan is to foster respect and protection for human life. H.B. 5711 fosters respect for women who are contemplating abortion, while at the same time emphasizing the humanity of the unborn.

Until abortion is unthinkable, we will continue to foster respect for all human life. Each and every life is worth it.

Pamela Sherstad is director of public information and education at Right to Life of Michigan.