By David Eggert, Associated Press
LANSING (AP) - Michigan anti-abortion advocates are targeting a common second-trimester abortion procedure, pushing bills in the Republican-led Legislature to prohibit what they say is "dismemberment" of a fetus.
Similar criminal bans have been approved in two other states, Kansas and Oklahoma, where they temporarily are on hold after court rulings. The Michigan legislation was the subject of a House hearing on Tuesday and could advance this fall.
The procedure, called dilation and evacuation, accounted for 2,264, or 8 percent, of the state's 27,629 reported abortions in 2014, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. About 86 percent of abortions occurred in the first trimester.
D&E "is a gruesome, horrific and cruel type of abortion procedure whereby tiny unborn humans are literally ripped apart," the bills' sponsor, Republican Rep. Laura Cox of Livonia, told the House Criminal Justice Committee. "It seems unconscionable to me that this type of abortion exists, and it is time that this practice ended."
Abortion rights advocates say the legislation is unconstitutional and would ban one of the safest and more common abortion methods.
"These bills create a dangerous environment for patients by preventing doctors from having every option available when providing care," said Matthew Allswede, a Lansing doctor representing the state section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "It is extremely dangerous for legislators to presume that they are better equipped than experienced physicians to judge what treatment approach is appropriate for a patient and under what circumstances."
The main bill would amend a 2011 abortion law that outlaws a procedure abortion opponents call "partial-birth" abortion. Like that law, the "dismemberment" bill would provide an exception if a physician determines the procedure is necessary to save a woman's life.
Physicians using forceps or another instrument to scrape the uterus and remove a living fetus in pieces could face up to two years in prison and a $50,000 maximum fine.
Abortion critics say the D&E procedure is one of "convenience" because it can be done more quickly and in an outpatient facility or doctor's office, so a woman can avoid an induction abortion in which she would go through the stages of labor and delivery.
"If women are in a crisis and the pregnancy is a difficulty in their life, we have to offer them something better than dismemberment abortion," said Ed Rivet, Right to Life of Michigan's legislative director.
But Allswede said some woman could have complications from the alternative induction procedure, due to scarring from previous surgeries, allergic reactions to medicines or increased risk of infection. In certain circumstances, he said, "time is not on their side."
Mary Pollack, government relations coordinator with the American Association of University Women of Michigan, said the bills would ban a procedure used in 95 percent of second-term abortions, "in the inevitable march toward trying to ban all abortions."
"You are helping to go back to the time when women used things like hangars to self-abort," she said.
In July, a Kansas judge blocked the state's first-in-the-nation ban on the procedure, concluding it likely would present too big an obstacle for women seeking to end their pregnancies. A judge on Wednesday blocked a similar Oklahoma law scheduled to take effect in November.
If Michigan enacts a similar law, "the only outcome ... will be costly litigation for a state that cannot afford to do it," said Brooke Tucker, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.
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