Lansing Update: May 30, 2008

In this issue of Lansing Update:

  1. Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Clears Legislature
  2. Protect Poor and Vulnerable in Energy Debate, Conference Urges Senate
  3. Emergency Contraceptive Bill Headed to Senate

Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Clears Legislature

Legislation banning partial-birth abortion in Michigan is headed to the Governor after passing the House of Representatives this week with overwhelming bipartisan support. Michigan Catholic Conference is asking for messages to be sent through the Catholic Legislative Advocacy Network [Link no longer available —Ed.] to Governor Granholm urging her to sign the bill into law.

This week’s House passage of Senate Bill 776 marks the second time in five years the Michigan Legislature has passed a ban on the late-term abortion procedure that involves destroying the baby’s skull and vacuuming out his or her brains just before birth. Twenty-four Democrats joined fifty Republicans in support of the bill, which mirrors a federal ban that was held constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court on April 18, 2007.

Following the bill’s passage Michigan Catholic Conference released the following statement:

“Speaker Dillon and the pro-life majority in the House that voted for this legislation, Democrats and Republicans, deserve praise for outlawing a procedure that exemplifies just how far-reaching and out-of-touch the abortion issue has become. Today’s vote is a victory for those who have spent several years working to uplift the dignity of women and the human rights of the unborn by ending the atrocity known as partial-birth abortion. Now that Senate Bill 776 has passed both the House and Senate with clear bipartisan majority support, the Conference looks forward to Governor Granholm signing the bill, which mirrors the constitutionally-sound federal ban, into law.”

Should the governor veto the legislation, despite the Conference’s urging to sign the bill, there are not enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto in the Michigan Senate, which passed the bill 24-13, two votes shy necessary for an override, on January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The Catholic Legislative Advocacy Network has been updated to allow for users to contact Governor Granholm and urge her to sign Senate Bill 776.

Protect Poor and Vulnerable in Energy Debate, Conference Urges Senate

Any legislation that moves through the Senate seeking to reform the state’s energy policy must take into consideration its effect on Michigan’s poor and vulnerable population, the Catholic Conference this week communicated to members of the Senate Energy Policy and Public Utilities Committee.

The Michigan House of Representatives has already passed legislation that would re-monopolize the state’s energy utilities. According to the Conference, such legislation would present a harmful burden for the poor population who would inevitably be victims of automatic rate increases. Reform measures soon to be addressed by the Senate Energy committee must include the following four points, according to the MCC letter:

The Senate Energy Policy and Public Utilities Committee is likely to address this issue on Tuesday, June 3.

Emergency Contraceptive Bill Headed to Senate

Shortly after the Michigan House this week passed the partial-birth abortion ban, legislators followed suit with a measure that would mandate hospitals to dispense emergency contraceptives to those women who ask for the drug. The bill, which was allowed to pass by one vote, was part of a compromise between Right to Life of Michigan and the House Democratic caucus that allowed for a vote to be taken on House Bill 6048 in exchange for the chamber’s vote on the partial-birth abortion ban bill.

Michigan Catholic Conference expressed its opposition to the emergency contraceptive mandate on the grounds that the legislation does not provide for adequate testing measures before the drug is administered to ensure the survivor of an attack was not already pregnant before the act of violence. Testifying against the bill in committee, MCC staff stated that Catholic hospitals already provide assistance to women in need, which is consistent with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services promulgated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. According to Directive 36 [Link no longer available —Ed.]:

“A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there were no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum.”

Two other pieces of legislation in a package of bills that included the emergency contraception bill—one that would prohibit pharmacies and pharmacists from exercising their constitutional right to religious freedom, and another that would direct the Department of Community Health to promote access to contraception—failed to, respectively, be taken up and receive enough support for passage.

House Bill 6048, sponsored by State Representative Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) has yet to be assigned to a committee in the state Senate, which has historically given little consideration to legislative mandates.