A massive, 60-page omnibus bill that drastically limits abortion access and could shut down all abortion clinics in the state is being rushed through the Michigan State House of Representatives on Thursday.
The bill was introduced just last week, but lawmakers held a hearing for it on Thursday morning and are sending it to a full House vote on Thursday afternoon. A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan said about 90 people showed up at the Health Policy Committee hearing to testify against the bill, but Committee Chair Gail Haines (R-Waterford) abruptly ended the hearing and cut off all testimony after a Michigan Right to Life spokesperson and only a few others were able to speak.
"We had a lot of doctors there and members of the committee asking questions about what the full ramifications of a lot of these provisions could be, and quite frankly a lot of folks couldn't answer them," said Meghan Groen, a spokesperson for PPMSM.
Specifically, the omnibus bill would criminalize all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, without exceptions for rape victims, the health of the woman or in cases where there is a severe fetal anomaly; a narrow exception is permitted when the mother's life is at risk, as determined by a physician. It would require health centers that provide abortions to have surgery rooms, even when they don't provide surgical abortions. It would require doctors to be present for medication abortions and to screen women for "coercion" before providing an abortion, and it would create new regulations for the disposal of fetal remains.
The bill would also ban "telemedicine" abortions, or the use of technology to prescribe medication for abortion services and the morning-after pill.
"It could shut down most reproductive health centers in the state of Michigan," said Groen. "It's the most extreme legislation we're seeing anywhere in the country."
State Rep. Mike Shirkey (R-Clark Lake) told a local television station on Wednesday that he supports the bill and hopes it will end abortion in Michigan. "This [abortion] is nothing short of infanticide. Until we completely eliminate abortions in Michigan and completely defund Planned Parenthood, we have work to do," he said.
State Rep. Bruce Rendon (R-Lake City), the sponsor of the bill, and House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) did not return calls for comment.
The bill is expected to pass the Republican-dominated House on Thursday afternoon.
Clarification: Language has been added to the article to indicate that the bill stipulates a narrow exception for abortions after 20 weeks only when the mother's life at risk.
Below, songs help explain the GOP war on women:
Eric Fehrnstrom, senior campaign adviser for Mitt Romney, said on Sunday that issues pertaining to women's reproductive rights, such as abortion and birth control, were "shiny objects" meant to distract voters from the real issues. "Mitt Romney is pro-life," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "He'll govern as a pro-life president, but you're going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people's attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election."
The Senate will vote Thursday on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would expand and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and make it illegal for employers to punish women for bringing up pay disparity issues. Dana Perino, a Fox News contributor and former press secretary for President George W. Bush, called the equal pay issue "a distraction" from the country's real financial problems last week. "Well, it's just yet another distraction of dealing with the major financial issues that the country should be dealing with," Perino said. "This is not a job creator."
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose home state's legislature recently defunded Planned Parenthood and voted to pass a bill that would allow employers to deny women birth control coverage, delivered a floor speech in which he insisted that the war on women is something imaginary for Democrats to "sputter about." "My friends, this supposed 'War on Women' or the use of similarly outlandish rhetoric by partisan operatives has two purposes, and both are purely political in their purpose and effect: The first is to distract citizens from real issues that really matter and the second is to give talking heads something to sputter about when they appear on cable television," he said.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tried to trivialize concerns about the legislative "war on women" by comparing it to a "war on caterpillars." "If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we'd have problems with caterpillars," Priebus said in an April interview on Bloomberg Television. "It's a fiction."
Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Steelman (R) took heat from her opponents in May when she contended that Democratic lawmakers' focus on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act was "a distraction" from the issues they should be dealing with instead. "I think it's unfortunate that the Democrats have made a political football out of this thing, which I think is what they keep doing to distract from real problems that are facing our nation," she said in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) defended the Republican Party in April for going after insurance coverage for contraception by arguing that women don't actually care about contraception. "Women don't care about contraception," she said on ABC's The View. "They care about jobs and the economy and raising their families and all those other things."