Michigan Lawmakers Revive Attempt to Criminalize Abortion

May 6, 1999 12:00 am

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Thursday, May 6, 1999

DETROIT–Michigan’s so-called “Infant Protection Act” passed in the State Senate today, sending to the House of Representatives legislation that could criminalize many early abortions that are currently both safe and legal, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said today.

The bill, if it becomes law, would carry the potential penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of $50,000.

In 1997, U.S. District Court Judge Gerald E. Rosen rejected a similar bill as unconstitutional in a challenge brought by the ACLU of Michigan, making the state the first in the nation to invalidate a ban that closely mirrored Congressional legislation.

Michigan’s senate, which passed the new measure yesterday 26-8, defeated three amendments that would have allowed exceptions to protect the health of the mother, defined “viability,” and made clear that the legislation was not intended to make illegal otherwise legal abortions.

“This ban will endanger the health and lives of women and unconstitutionally restrict a woman’s right to choose abortion,” said ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary L. Moss.

“The bill is so vague that it can encompass several abortion procedures, including the safest and most common abortion methods used,” she added. “Its vagueness also violates the rights of physicians to make medical decisions as they deem appropriate.”

The bill also has the potential to criminalize fetal surgery, the ACLU said.

Since 1995 the ACLU and its pro-choice allies have fought a pitched battle against congressional attempts to ban a particular abortion procedure — the so-called “partial-birth abortion” — a term without meaning to the medical community invented solely as a propaganda ploy to provoke legislators and the public.

The United States Supreme Court has consistently recognized that a woman seeking the abortion of a non-viable fetus has the right to choose the safest option available. The state cannot ask a woman to compromise her health or life by denying her a specific medical procedure.

Similarly, a woman seeking a post-viability abortion in order to save her life or preserve her health must be allowed to choose the safest medical procedure.

In 1997, President Clinton vetoed the federal “Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 1997,” emphasizing its failure to protect women’s life and health. The Senate failed to overturn the presidential veto of the 1997 law and a similar ban in 1996.

The ACLU’s news release on the earlier challenge to the Michigan law is at /news/n073197b.html

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