Marking a great victory for the pro-life “People’s Override” petition drive, the Michigan Legislature voted to ban partial abortion in the state on Wednesday, June 9. Since the measure, which passed both the House and Senate, was bolstered by a citizen petition drive, it in effect overrides the Michigan governor’s earlier veto of an identical legislation.
The “People’s Override” drive was launched in January 15 by several pro-life and Christian-based action groups, including the Right to Life of Michigan, the Michigan Catholic Conference and the Knights of Columbus. Since then, some 460,000 signatures were collected from pro-life Michigan citizens, setting two state records: the most signatures ever collected without paying circulators and the highest validity rate of signatures collected at 97.3 percent.
"The Michigan Catholic Conference applauds those in both chambers of the Legislature who stood steadfast today by protecting human life from an abortion procedure that is nothing less than an atrocity," said Michigan Catholic Conference Associate for Public Policy Kristen Hemker. "The extent of citizen participation coupled with the Legislature's repeated approval of the Legal Birth Definition Act magnifies the disturbing veto and its disregard for the sanctity of human life."
The measure, entitled, “the Legal Birth Definition Act,” defines birth as a moment when any part of the child emerges from the birth canal, thereby outlawing all forms of partial-birth abortion.
Critics of the legislation have argued that the legislation could be interpreted as a ban on all abortions and would fail to provide exceptions to protect the mother’s health, and have expressed plans to file a lawsuit challenging the law before it takes effect in March.
"We will now embark on an expensive legal battle where the courts will once again decide in favor of women," said Sen. Gilda Jacobs, a Democrat.
Supporters of the bill however, said the measure was necessary to stop a “heinous procedure” that would partially remove a fetus from the womb and puncture or crush its skull.
"Let's call it for what it is," said Sen. Alan Cropsey, a Republican. "It is an evil procedure."
"For too long this horrific procedure which kills children who are more born than unborn has been legally tolerated. The people of Michigan have spoken in a resounding voice that they will no longer let this evil stand," said Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing.
Additionally, pro-lifers emphasized the fact that the method provides an exception when the mother’s health is at risk.
“This method effectively outlaws partial-birth abortion in Michigan while at the same time providing an important exception "to avert an imminent threat to the physical health of the mother,”” the Michigan Catholic Conference wrote in a June 10 news release.
Kristen Hemker of the Conference said pro-life groups are expecting challenges to the ban, but are ready to fight back for the right to life.
“Unfortunately, a court challenge is imminent from those who use such words as 'radical' and 'extreme' in describing the hundreds of thousands of Michigan citizens who believe in the dignity of the human person," said Hemker. "Regardless of such organizations, Michigan citizens and their legislators spoke loud and clear today to protect innocent life by outlawing a gruesome and unnecessary procedure."
According to the Right to Life of Michigan, the bill is a “new conceptual approach to banning partial-birth abortion that has not been tested in the courts.”
Last week, a federal judge in San Francisco declared a similar measure, which was more explicitly entitled the “Partial Birth Abortion Ban,” unconstitutional, and has ordered half the abortion clinics to continue performing the act. Similar cases are pending in New York and Nebraska.