Genesee County, state officials call anti-abortion bill threat to women’s rights

Posted on July 11, 2012

Michigan Live, July 11, 2012 by Roberto Acosta

MUNDY TOWNSHIP, MI — Genesee County and state officials voiced concerns a package of bills they said threatens women’s reproductive rights during a roundtable discussion at the Holiday Inn Gatway Center Wednesday evening.

Among the speakers including state Rep. Charles Smiley, D-Burton, Burton Councilwoman Ellen Ellenburg and Burton Mayor Paula Zelenko was state Rep. Barb Byrum, who was barred from speaking on the House floor June 14 after discussing regulating vasectomies in reference to the bills.

“We dared voice our concern on a bill that would directly affect me, my health and the health of all Michigan women,” she said of the incident, which also involved state Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield who was also banned from speaking on the same day for her objection to a provision in the bills banning abortions after 20 weeks except if the mother’s life was in danger.

House bills 5711, 5712 and 5713 include provisions that would necessitate licensing and insurance requirements, make it a crime to coerce women into having an abortion, prohibiting use of the RU-486 pill through a webcam or telephone consultation and provides guidelines for disposing of fetal remains.

While bill 5711 was approved in the House, no vote was taken on bills 5712 and 5713, which includes the 20-week abortion restriction, but they could be voted on later this year.

Smiley said the day before Byrum and Brown were barred he was advised and required to remove a button stating “I’m Watching And I Vote” from a women’s rights group.

Zelenko, whom served six years as a state representative, said the potential changes would be a step backwards for women in addition to the changes in Medicare and Medicaid.

She cited figures including cuts to Medicare, of which 56 percent of recipients are women, and Social Security which Zelenko said keeps one-third of women ages 65 and above out of poverty.

“That to me is an attack on women as well,” Zelenko said, who did not want to see the reemergence of “back room abortions” and “trash can babies.”

“I think we can make our own decisions on our vaginas,” she said, with Byrum adding “They truly believe the voters spoke, and I believe many of them didn’t speak.”

“The legislature that’s been introduced, when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it gets worse,” Byrum said. “This is right to life.”

She said groups are prepared to protest the bills at the state capitol, with a potential vote on House Bill 5711 coming as soon as July 18.

“This is not going to be swept under the rug,” Byrum said.

Smiley, who previously introduced House Bill 4633 to make the Plan B pill available for women and have it known it is available to them during medical consultations, urged voters as did the rest of the panel to contact their legislators to have their voices heard.

“Write them, call their staff,” said Zelenko. “There’s nothing that’s going to get their attention faster than that.”

Posted in: Michigan