Commentary
1:52 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Banning Abortion

Yesterday, after a long series of what were described as impassioned floor speeches, the Michigan Legislature banned a medical procedure called “partial-birth abortion.”

Thinking about this is not for the faint of heart. The procedure, known medically as “dilation and extraction”  involves a technique where a fetus is killed after it partly emerges from the vagina.

A very small percentage of abortions have ever been performed this way -- less than a fifth of one percent. Some doctors have said this procedure sometimes makes sense for the safety of the mother.

Others disagree. Those who are anti-abortion tend to be violently opposed to this. The powerful political group Right-to-Life of Michigan has lobbied long and hard for a state law against this procedure. Well, now they are likely to have one. A bill banning so-called partial birth abortions passed both houses of the legislature yesterday, and is almost certain to be signed by the governor.

Incidentally, a similar bill banning this practice was passed eight years ago, but was vetoed by then-Governor Jennifer Granholm.

So - assuming Governor Snyder does sign this bill, how will it change things? The answer is that it won’t, not at all.

That’s because partial-birth abortion has been illegal under federal law for years. Congress passed a ban eight years ago that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in two thousand and seven.

There have been no legal partial birth abortions in Michigan or anywhere else since that time. So … why are the legislators wasting time doing this, in a state with so many other problems?

Simply, for the benefit of those lawmakers who court the staunch anti-abortion vote, and more importantly, who seek campaign funds from Right-to-Life of Michigan and other such groups.

By the way, despite what I said, so-called partial-birth abortions are still legal under both this and federal law if that were necessary to save the life of the mother.  And neither this ban, nor the federal ban, is saving any fetuses from abortion. What I am going to tell you isn’t for the squeamish, but is true. A Boston Globe story reported that in cases that formerly might have been a candidate for this procedure, doctors now do one of two things. They first give the fetus an injection in the heart, killing it, or, in some cases, they break its neck in the birth canal, then extract it.

These procedures are apparently fully legal, according to the Supreme Court ruling.

Whatever your feelings about abortion,it seems to be that State Representative Lisa Brown of West Bloomfield, had the most rational thing to say about what her fellow lawmakers did yesterday:

“Why are we wasting our time on this when unemployment is higher now - over eleven percent - than when we took the oath of office? How does this legislation move Michigan forward and lead us to economic recovery?” she asked.

Lisa Brown knows the answer. It doesn’t, one bit. But creating jobs and fixing the economy is hard. Passing a law banning something that is already illegal is easy, and painless.

But is that really what we are paying our lawmakers more than seventy thousand dollars a year to do?