Michigan Democrats Delay Anti-Abortion Bill

A symbolic bill designed to force Michigan state legislators to take a stand on certain abortion procedures failed to move last week, representing at least a momentary failure for an anti-abortion group pushing for its passage.

House Democrats spent hours in caucus last Wednesday debating how to proceed on the Senate Bill 776, which would ban the abortion of a fetus by removing the fetus until the head or fetal trunk is outside a woman's body before completing the abortion. The procedures banned by the bill are collectively referred to by opponents as partial birth abortion, though the term has no medical relevancy. Doctors sometimes recommend the procedure for pregnancies that pose risks to the mother's health.

When they emerged from caucus, Majority Floor Leader Steve Tobocman, D-Detroit, used a parliamentary maneuver to quickly adjourn session. That move prevented action on the bill and led to chants of "776" by some House Republicans.

The bill, which allows for exceptions only in situations of threat to a woman's life, is a replica of a federal law that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in January. Michigan is covered under the federal law.

Nonetheless, Ed Rivet, legislative director for Michigan Right to Life, has said his group was engaged in "active negotiations" with House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, to bring the bill to a floor vote and planned to use the day a couple hundred of its members descend on the Capitol to push for the bill.

"There isn't any reason the deal can't be done," Rivet said April 16. "The pressure isn't necessarily on the Speaker so much as on pro-choice Democrats who find this unpalatable."

The Republican-led State Senate passed the bill in January. It was then sent to the Democratic-led House, where it has stalled in the Judiciary Committee.

Though Democrats' decision to sit on the bill Wednesday represents a defeat for Michigan Right to Life, it may be only temporary. Yesterday's lack of action didn't kill the bill, and Republicans' dramatic chants indicate they don't intend to let it die.

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