Lansing (Detroit News) — A state House committee Thursday morning advanced a package of bills that would impose new regulations on abortion providers.
House Bills 5711, 5712 and 5713 require abortion clinics to be licensed surgical centers, outline new requirements for disposing of the remains of aborted fetuses and make it crime to coerce a woman into having an abortion.
Rep. Bruce Rendon, R-Lake City, said abortion clinics should be held to the same cleanliness standards as free-standing surgical facilities.
The bills also would prohibit doctors from administering a drug-induced early abortion by speaking with a patient via an Internet camera — a practice abortion opponents claim has popped up in other states.
"This disturbing practice should end," said Rendon, who sponsored House Bill 5711, the main abortion regulation legislation.
During testimony on the bill Thursday morning, Edward Rivet, legislative director of Right to Life of Michigan, referred to the practice as a "webcam abortion."
Rep. Jimmy Womack, a Detroit Democrat and physician, sought to correct Rivet during the hearing.
"There's no such thing as a webcam abortion," said Womack, a former board member of Planned Parenthood's southeast Michigan affiliate. "The webcam can't do the abortion."
In written testimony, the head of Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan said the bills place "burdensome requirements" on women's health care clinics that only dispense oral abortion medication to upgrade their facilities to handle surgical abortions they do not perform.
"Women rightfully don't turn to politicians for advice about mammograms, prenatal care or cancer treatments," said Lori Lamerand, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan. "Politicians should not be involved in a woman's personal medical decisions about her pregnancy."
The Republican-controlled House Health Policy Committee passed the bills over the objections of physicians who say additional malpractice insurance could force some obstetricians and gynecologists to leave the state.
"It's open season on us," said Dr. Matthew Allswede, a Lansing ob/gyn who testified on behalf of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Dr. Timothy Johnson, an ob/gyn at the University of Michigan's Von Voigtlander Women's Hospital in Ann Arbor, said he's opposed to women being coerced into having an abortion, but said the bill's language is too broad and interferes with the confidential nature of doctor-patient relationships.
"Women are much more likely to be coerced by abusive partners to have a pregnancy" than abort the pregnancy, Johnson said.
The bills, which passed on margins of 13-5 and 13-4, head to the full House for debate. It's unclear whether House Republicans will schedule a vote on the bills before next week's planned summer adjournment.