Michigan Abortion Bill HB5711 Creates Controversy Before Wednesday House Vote

A massive omnibus abortion bill expected to soon go up for a vote in the Michigan House is stirring up emotions on both sides of the debate.

Backers are portraying the legislation as an effort to protect women, but opponents are saying such language is a smokescreen to pass a law that could effectively ban abortion in the state.

HB 5711 was introduced on May 31, and passed by the House Committee on Health Policy last week. It ties together a number of previously introduced bills and would amend Michigan's Public Health code to restrict and regulate abortion in the the state of Michigan. The legislation would put in place new insurance and licensing requirements for clinics; ban abortions that take place more than 20 weeks after conception except when the procedure would save a woman's life; make it illegal to coerce a woman to have an abortion; set guidelines for disposing of the remains of a fetus; and regulate the prescription of the RU-486 drug.

The Michigan Catholic Conference, the state policy wing of the Catholic Church, is one of the organizations supporting the measure.

"Our support for the legislation is based on the dignity of women and, despite the injustice of the abortion procedure, a woman's right to enter a 'medical' facility that is not of third world standards," Rebecca J. Mastee, a policy advocate for the organization, told The Huffington Post in an email.

She said that humanely disposing of the remains of unborn children was a matter of common decency and added that protecting women from being coerced into abortions should be something both sides of the issue should be able to agree upon.

Lori Lamerand, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan told The Huffington Post that supporters of the legislation in the state house are being dishonest about their motives.

"Philosophically we know they don't care a whit about Michigan women," she said. "The only time this legislature has any focus on women is before they're born. Once that happens all bets are off."

Lamerand said under the proposed legislation Planned Parenthood offices would be have to be licensed as free standing outpatient facilities in order to conduct medically-induced abortions. She added that technicalities like new licensing regulations could have a devastating effect on women's right to make reproductive choices. Despite these implications, Lamerand believes the bill is destined for failure.

"The thing contradicts itself," she said. "It contains language that is very unclear and undefined. It's completely unenforceable."

Mastee of the Catholic Conference argued otherwise noting that "nearly all elements of this bill have been previously discussed in committee and on the House or Senate floor."

The bill package is expected to go up for a vote in the state house Wednesday. The legislature is also considering HB 5712 and HB 5713, two smaller companion bills, which also deal with preventing coerced abortions.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story indicated that the House vote was scheduled for Thursday.