In This Week’s Lansing Update:
- Abortion Industry Reform Measures Moves to Full House
- Drug Testing for State Assistance Recipients Passes Michigan House
Michigan Catholic Conference testified this week before the House Health Policy Committee in support of legislation that will protect women from unacceptable and harmful abortion practices, facilities, and practitioners. The legislation, House Bill 5711, combines several existing bills into one "pro life omnibus" bill that addresses, in part, abortion clinic abuses that were discussed at a March 15th Senate subcommittee hearing.
"This bill will help to ensure the abortion industry is held to standards that recognize the importance of safety and the proper treatment of women," MCC Policy Advocate Rebecca Mastee testified before the committee. "The additional precautions included in this legislation are really common sense measures of care—and should not be controversial, if the well-being of women is truly of utmost concern."
House Bill 5711, sponsored by State Representative Bruce Rendon (R-Lake City), amends the Public Health Code to accomplish the following:
- Require abortionists with a history of medical licensure violations or history of multiple civil lawsuits for causing injury from abortions to carry a minimum amount of malpractice insurance or equivalent security,
- Change the standard for when an abortion facility must be licensed as an outpatient surgical facility, which would license 28 of the 32 abortion clinics that remain unlicensed,
- Prescribe humane disposition of fetal remains from abortions and adjust protocols for handling miscarriages and stillbirths,
- Provide materials and screening protocols to identify women who are being coerced into seeking an abortion, and require an anti-coercion sign to be posed in abortion clinics, and
- Require FDA approved protocols for use of the "abortion pill" (RU-486) and prohibit remote use of RU-486 through "webcam" consultation, a practice that the abortion industry introduced in Iowa in 2008.
Another piece of legislation that passed the committee, House Bill 5713, recognizes the fact that unborn children feel pain beginning at 20 weeks, and thus bans abortions after that phase of pregnancy. The measure provides exemptions for the life of the mother. Both pieces of legislation now await consideration from the full House of Representatives.
The Michigan House of Representatives this week passed legislation with bipartisan support to begin testing for drugs those who receive state assistance.
House Bill 5223 passed 71-37 and would phase in a drug testing program for those on state assistance as well as those applying for assistance. Beginning in 2013, three counties in the state would be selected to participate in a pilot project, by 2014 half of the counties in the state would participate and by 2015 all 83 counties in Michigan would be included. The legislation was amended to include a report to the Legislature on the number of individuals screened, how many passed, how many failed and various other reporting requirements prior to the pilot program being expanded.
Michigan Catholic Conference, an organization that since its inception in 1963 has advocated on behalf of the poor and vulnerable of the state, communicated to the Legislature its opposition to the bill on the grounds that it forces those who pass the test to pay for the test from their first monthly benefit. MCC is encouraged that the House has included in the bill a substance abuse treatment option for those who fail the test, which also reduces by half the time necessary to reapply for assistance.
MCC will continue to work with members of the Legislature to ensure dignified treatment of those on state assistance, and to ensure that those with a substance abuse problem are provided the tools needed to enable themselves to live a healthier and more positive lifestyle.
House Bill 5223 has yet to be referred to a Senate committee.