Politics trump science in attack on women’s health

LANSING – Michigan House Republicans rammed a three-bill package of complex, anti-choice bills through the Health Policy Committee on Thursday that will, in the words of the ACLU of Michigan and Planned Parenthood of Michigan,  be “the biggest assault on women’s health in our state’s history.”

House Bills 5711-5713 were passed out of the Committee mostly along party lines just one week after they were introduced, and they are expected to be vote on during the next House session day on Tuesday. Democratic members of the committee protested that they did not have enough time to review the bills, let alone read the 60 pages of the bills, and less than 90 minutes of testimony was taken on the bills before they were voted out.

In fact, Committee Chair Rep. Gail Haines, R-Waterford, only allowed a very few of the 90 opponents of the bill who packed the committee room to testify or even have their position on the bills read into the record, which is standard practice. She said she would read the cards they filled out into the record after the vote, but she adjourned the meeting right after  vote was taken.

But first, she called a brief recess after extremist conservative Rep. Paul Opsommer attacked Rev. Jeff Liebmann, who testified against the bills. Apparently, she took the very brief recess to let Opsommer cool down and not let Democrats respond to the attack or ask Rev. Liebmann any questions. When Haines was called out on adjourning the meeting early, she said she would read the cards into the record  next week. That is just not standard procedure for a committee meeting.

The sweeping, onerous bills would criminalize all abortions after 20 weeks with no exceptions for rape, the health of the mother or in cases where there is a severe fetal anomaly. It would require health centers that provide abortions to have surgical facilities, even a OB/GYN’s office that just provides medication for abortion services and the morning-after pill. It will put many women’s health clinics out of business.

It would also require doctors to screen women for “coercion” before providing an abortion, even if the doctor knew the abortion was for the health of the mother. So much for the right’s crying about a bureaucrat getting between the doctor and patient. The bills also would require $1 million of professional liability coverage if an OB/GYN performs six or more abortions in a month.

The usual political suspects testified in support of the bill: “Right to Life,” the Michigan Catholic League and the extremist group “Citizens for Traditional Values.” Testifying against the bills were two medical doctors. You had science against politics, and politics won.

Dr. Matthew Allswede, testified against the bills on behalf of the Michigan Section of American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. He said the bills will hurt both women and their doctors.

“Legislation that interferes with the doctor-patient relationship will reduce the likelihood that women will seek important medical guidance during pregnancy and increases their likelihood of suffering from serious preventable pregnancy complications,” he said.

Dr. John Bizon, the president at Michigan State Medical Society, said portions of legislation are vague and the penalties are severe, and he said the bills will hurt their efforts to recruit OB/GYNs to the state.

It makes you wonder where all the jobs bills Republicans promised in 2010.


Communications Guru
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  1. FYI, the caption for the third speaker is incorrect. I am the person identified as “Joe Liebman” in the caption. My name is Rev. Jeff Liebmann. I serve the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Midland. The text of my prepared notes is available on my blog at http://uujeff.blogspot.com/

  2. I apologize for that error. I missed your name, and I took it from another report. However, that does not excuse my mistake. I have corrected it, and please accept my apology.

  3. Hector Solon says:

    Rev. Jeff Liebmann: Thanks for your comments and LINKS to your statement and follow-up to your trip to Lansing. Share your feelings, and you are indeed not alone by a long shot. We will see how all this plays out, this ‘cocktail’ of bills making MI now more regressive on women’s rights than TX is not just an outrageous affront to women, but all Michiganders. Glad there are people like you willing to make your voice heard, testimony allowed or not.

    PS – Was always a big Duncan Littlefair fan, wonder how he would shape his perspectives on the radical nature of our politics and what is happening to his beloved state? ‘Civil discourse’ on so many issues just isn’t happening.

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