Michigan bill would ban abortions if ultrasound reveals 'fetal heartbeat'

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Here's something that we missed this month: A physician who performs an abortion after "detecting [a] heartbeat in [an] unborn child" could be charged with a felony and face up to four years in prison or a $50,000 fine, or both, under a three-bill package introduced by the Michigan House earlier this month. The bills would place a ban on abortions if a fetal heartbeat has been detected, which occurs as early as six weeks after conception, "except when a medical emergency exists." Here's what wouldn't be considered a violation under the proposed legislation:
  • "In the physician's reasonable medical judgment, performance of an abortion is necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness or physical injury ... [The physician] shall declare in writing, under penalty of perjury, that the abortion is necessary in the physician's reasonable medical judgment to prevent the death of the pregnant woman. The physician shall place the written declaration in the pregnant woman's medical record."
  • "The physician has performed an examination for the presence of a fetal heartbeat utilizing standard medical practice and the examination does not reveal a fetal heartbeat.
HB 5463 would, if a heartbeat is detected, require a physician to "offer to the pregnant woman the option of hearing or seeing the evidence of the fetal heartbeat." It'd also require the physician to "inform the pregnant woman of the probability of maintaining the pregnancy versus experiencing a miscarriage, given the state of pregnancy and other factors known to affect the possibility of a miscarriage." It's worth highlighting the exact language of the bills, which were sponsored by 15 -- really, 15 -- legislators, because even if they passed the House and Senate and were signed into law by the governor, they likely don't doesn't stand a chance in court. One of the bill sponsors admitted as much to MLive:

Sponsoring state Rep. Tom Hooker, R-Byron Center, said he introduced the bills in an attempt to limit abortion in Michigan but acknowledged that the ban and criminal penalties he proposed could face legal challenges.

"If an elderly person reaches the end of their life, we judge their death by when their heartbeat stops," Hooker said Thursday. "Using the same line of reasoning, although I believe in life from conception, if you have a heartbeat the law should at least consider that a life."

As MLive reported, federal judges struck down similar bans in Arkansas and North Dakota, whose governor signed a six-week ban even though he acknowledged it would likely be struck down in court. Because it makes sense to spend public dollars to defend clearly unconstitutional laws.

One writer today suggested a silver lining of sorts: It showcases just how extreme some of Michigan's anti-abortion lawmakers are:

... a Michigan heartbeat ban is good news for local reproductive rights advocates beyond just the unlikelihood of it ever being put into action. For one thing, it serves as a reminder to the people of Michigan of both how extreme and intrusive anti-abortion state lawmakers really are as they not only try ban nearly all abortion in the state, but also that they have no qualms about wasting taxpayer money in an attempt to do it. 

You can review the bills, which are currently sitting in the state Health Policy Committee, here here and here.


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