Advance Notice: Briefs

New: Michigan State Medical Society opposes Senate GOP abortion restrictions

By: - May 9, 2019 7:26 am

Susan J. Demas

The Michigan State Medical Society (MSMS) has come out against anti-abortion bills slated to be debated Thursday morning in a state Senate committee.

The Michigan Advance has obtained a copy of the May 1 letter from MSMS President Dr. Betty Chu written to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Twp.) on Senate Bill 229, sponsored by state Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Potterville), and SB 230, sponsored by Sen. Kim LaSata (R-Bainbridge Twp.). The MSMS represents more than 15,000 Michigan physicians.

“Our concerns stem primarily from the potential criminal penalties that could be imposed and the concerning precedent the legislation sets with respect to interference into the sanctity and confidentiality of the physician patient relationship. These concerns are consistent with standing policy of both MSMS and the American Medical Association (AMA),” Chu writes.

The legislation, which has been introduced in both chambers, would ban the medical procedure of dilation and evacuation. However, Republicans and anti-abortion advocates have instead used the highly charged political term “dismemberment abortion.”

According to a nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency analysis, the legislation makes performing the procedure a felony punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment or a maximum fine of $50,000, or both.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaking at a Planned Parenthood conference, April 16, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has vowed to veto the abortion restrictions.

The GOP legislation was introduced last session, as well. It’s part of a national trend of state-level anti-abortion measures, such as a new six-week ban enacted in Georgia. Laws are being challenged in the courts, but anti-abortion advocates are hopeful that the most conservative U.S. Supreme Court in modern history will outlaw most abortion procedures or even completely overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

In her letter, Chu noted that the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says dilation and evacuation is the “predominant approach to abortion after 13 weeks,” and it is “evidence-based and medically preferred because it results in the fewest complications for women compared to alternative procedures.”

Chu adds, “As we recognize that abortion is a medical procedure, we would oppose any legislative interference that would hinder physician discretion to act within the standards of good medical practice and in the best interest of the patient.”

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

The MSMS also raised concerns about the legislation’s section regarding an exception for the mother’s life.

“Regardless of the underlying intent, we object to efforts, legislative or otherwise, that might cause a physician to forego exercising his or her best professional medical judgment for fear of criminal prosecution,” Chu writes. “Although the legislation seeks to accommodate circumstances under which the life of the mother is at risk, these circumstances are often nebulous, and cultivating an environment of fear and uncertainty in this way could lead to increased complications and adverse patient outcomes.”

Similar legislation has moved out of the Michigan House Judiciary Committee. HB 4320, sponsored by Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Twp.), and HB 4321, sponsored by state Rep. Lynn Afendoulis (R-Grand Rapids), are now on the House floor.

The restrictions are supported by groups including Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference and opposed by Planned Parenthood of Michigan, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan.

Right to Life of Michigan has its lobby day at the Capitol slated for Tuesday, so Republicans may be looking to take further action on legislation by then.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 23-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on C-SPAN, MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ people, the state budget, the economy and more. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 100 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive.