With only 19 hours public notice, the Senate Judiciary Committee met Thursday morning and pushed through a controversial anti-abortion bill that sparked controversy in the House of Representatives last month.
At the end of a two-hour session almost solely devoted to the abortion bill, the committee recommended the bill to the full Senate with a vote of 3-1.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Rendon, R-Lake City, would add regulations to clinics that perform abortions and requires fetal remains past 10 weeks to be treated as a deceased infant.
The committee members agreed regulating abortions for proper medical practice is a reasonable thing to do but disagreed how far to legislate new regulations and requirements for abortions to take place.
Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, the committee chairman, said the outrage about the bill was based on misinformation and heated rhetoric, when people should focus more on sections of the bill focusing on improving patient safety.
“There’s a breach of trust that happens between the doctor and the patient, and we should not allow it,” Jones said.
On Thursday, the majority of people who testified did so against the bill, including Timothy Johnson, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan, who doubted the necessity of instituting certain regulations in the bill.
Lansing resident Gina Johnson was among the speakers who noted the emotional sensitivity of such a discussion.
She said she supports the bill because the delicate nature of abortions can put women in harm’s way, especially if the clinics were not properly cleaned or maintained.
“We need this industry regulated as much as possible to protect these women,” Johnson said.
The testimony grew heated when Northland Family Planning Center director Renee Chilean spoke about her experience providing women with abortion services.
Jones asked how late into pregnancy Chilean’s clinics performed abortions, and when he disagreed with her answer, citing an unnamed witness he had spoken with, he warned her of committing perjury with witnesses in the room.
“You, sir, are a liar,” Chilean replied, audibly shocked by his response. “You (should) have picked up the phone and called me, instead of relying on some right-to-life flunky with an agenda.”
Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, who did not vote for the bill’s passage, said the bill raised legitimate concerns of how abortions should be monitored for malpractice or sanitation, but the committee was “not ready” to report it without the input from more people. He said the testimony presented Thursday was a start, but the short notice before the meeting took place hindered some of the discussion.
Sam Singh, one of the Democratic candidates for the 69th district House of Representatives seat, criticized the rushed decision in a letter to Jones after the committee meeting.
“I had thought the public outcry would give pause when the legislation entered the Senate,” Singh said, referencing the several rallies and protests that surrounded the House bill.
Jones said he did not want to wait another month for the legislature to convene in session again before moving forward on the bill. He said although the terms in the bill will be carefully examined and defined, he does not want to slow down the process of getting the bill into the full Senate.
The next Senate session will be held Aug. 16 at noon.