By DANIELLE WOODWARD
Capital News Service
LANSING — State lawmakers are drafting legislation to ban physicians from performing abortions on any fetus with a detectable heartbeat.
Women wanting an abortion would first have to have an external ultrasound, said Rep Tom Hooker, R-Byron Center, who is developing the legislation.
“Generally speaking the heartbeat and brain waves are the best indicator of if the fetus is alive,” Hooker said. “The heartbeat can be measured as early as four weeks into the pregnancy but an external ultrasound would pick it up no earlier than eight weeks along.”
A separate bill would provide for fines of up to $50,000 to up to five years in prison for physicians who violate the ban, Hooker said.
Right to Life of Michigan, a nonprofit organization that lobbies against abortion, has been working with Hooker to develop the legislation.
“As an organization that believes we shouldn’t have legal abortions we are definitely going to promote something that would limit them,” said Ed Rivet, legislative director of the organization. “We support anything that is going to help protect the unborn child.”
Similar laws have been passed in Arkansas and North Dakota, Hooker said.
Lawmakers in Kansas, Kentucky and Texas are considering the legislation.
The bill is sure to be controversial.
The American Civil Liberties Union supports the right to choice and does not believe that the government should intrude into a woman’s life by regulating abortion, said Brynn McDonnell, co-chair of Central Michigan University’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“When I go to the doctor I have the right to have the healthcare that I need,” McDonnell said. “The government shouldn’t be telling people what services they can and can’t have.”
Hooker plans to introduce the legislation in the next few weeks.
It is unsure whether Gov. Rick Snyder would sign it, as he is reluctant to put forward social legislation, Hooker said.
Regardless of the outcome, Hooker said his goal is to get people talking about the issue.
“It is definitely a discussion that needs to be had which is why I want this to go forward,” Hooker said. “I’m passionate about this because my granddaughter was born premature and perfectly healthy and she could have been aborted any time up into the pregnancy.”
Michigan law prohibits abortion when the fetus has a 50 percent change of long-term survival when born. That’s around 24 weeks.A full term baby is born after 37 weeks.
“This legislation is to refocus the debate on the fact that the subject of the abortion is an unborn child with a beating heart,” Rivet said. “I think what he’s trying to ask is, should it be legal to kill someone with a beating heart?”
Michigan abortions have declined from 44,031 recorded cases in 1981 to 22,699 in 2012, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health. Wayne County holds the highest number of abortions, with 9,084 recorded cases in 2012. Of that amount, 5,693 were from Detroit.
“The number has been varying from year to year because our state and country have become more pro life,” Hooker said.
Hooker is also a cosponsor of House legislation that would require a physician performing an abortion to do an ultrasound with up to date equipment and offer to show it to the patient.
“We want to make sure that abortions that are going on at least meet the minimum standards of accuracy and are safe for women,” Hooker said.
The legislation stems from concern with clinics, he said.
“We were finding from investigations of the clinics that a lot of ultrasounds were being done on older machines that had a bad signal or distorted image of the baby,” said Rep. Bob Genetski, R-Saugatuck, a cosponsor of the bill. “The belief exists that maybe they did not want to get a clear picture of what the baby looks like.