A Michigan GOP lawmaker introduced two bills that would criminalize a medical procedure used after a miscarriage and during second-trimester abortions.
Rep. Laura Cox (R-Livonia), who was elected to her first term in the Republican-majority Michigan house during the 2014 midterm elections, on Thursday introduced HB 4833 and HB 4834, bills that would ban “dismemberment abortions.”
The ban would target the dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, commonly used in second-trimester abortion care. The procedure is a method of abortion during which a physician will dilate a woman’s cervix and remove the fetus using forceps, clamps, or other instruments.
Legislation to ban the common medical procedure has been introduced by Republican legislators in six states this year, and was signed into law by the governors of Kansas and Oklahoma. The bills have all been copies of legislation drafted by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).
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The bill does not appear to be based on NRLC copycat legislation, and the anti-choice Michigan Right to Life has not endorsed or taken credit for the bills. Cox has stated that she has “worked with and supported Right to Life in Michigan,” according to her campaign website.
HB 4833 would amend state law to include a ban on so-called dismemberment abortion. The legislation defines a dismemberment abortion as an abortion that uses “any instrument, device or object to dismember a living fetus by disarticulating limbs or decapitating the head from the fetal torso.”
The bill also seems to include contradictory language by defining a dismemberment abortion as taking place “regardless of whether the fetal body parts are removed by the same instrument, device or object or by suction or other means,” but then clarifies that the definition does not include any abortion that “uses suction to dismember or remove the body of a fetus.”
The bill’s broad and vague language and lack of medical terminology makes the possible implications on abortion care unclear.
Prior to 14 weeks’ gestation, abortions are usually performed using suction aspiration, but after 14 weeks, the D and E procedure must be used, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
HB 4834 would change the state’s criminal code; violation of the law would constitute a class G felony punishable by a maximum of two years in prison or a maximum fine of $50,000.
Cox claims that the bills would not “prevent or inhibit” a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. “This is not a debate about choice, but dismembering fetuses as a means to abort them,” Cox said in a Facebook post. “I think we can all agree that this practice is inexplicable, gruesome and should never happen.”
Reproductive rights activists believe such bans make it more difficult for women to receive the care they need, as Rewire has reported. “Every pregnant woman faces unique circumstances, challenges, and potential complications,” Martha Skeeters, president of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, said in a statement after the Oklahoma house passed a similar ban there. “We must trust each woman to make the decisions that are right for her, and enable her to get the care she needs according to the best medical counsel—not the agendas of politicians who presume to know better.”
Both bills have been referred to the Committee on Criminal Justice for further consideration. Republicans hold a 63-47 majority in the state house and a 27-11 majority in the state senate.