Abortion bill approved by state House, moves to Senate

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Republican-led Michigan House passed legislation Wednesday that would restrict and regulate abortion practices, but lawmakers set aside or eased some contentious provisions.

The House approved the main bill on a 70-39 vote, with several Democrats joining the Republicans in support. The package includes requiring a doctor or assistant to screen patients to ensure they aren't being coerced into ending their pregnancies.

The legislation also includes new regulations related to the disposal of fetal remains, though penalties would be civil infractions rather than felonies.

Additionally, physicians who perform at least five or more abortions a month must carry $1 million in liability coverage if they have been found liable in at least two civil lawsuits in the previous seven years. In an earlier version of the bill, the coverage would have been required if a physician had merely been sued.

The House didn't take up what had been a companion bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The package still must be approved by the Senate.

Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, said Republican leaders had the votes to pass the legislation but thought it was important to address some concerns raised by lawmakers.

The alterations didn't pacify many Democrats and other critics, who said the measures are confusing, contradictory and already covered by state laws not being enforced.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, said the proposals "launch a war on women" but do nothing to help children in need. "Stop having sex with us, gentlemen," she said, calling for a boycott of men if the legislation becomes law.

Others said the measures would restrict access to legitimate care by forcing some abortion clinics to close and causing some doctors to reconsider practicing in Michigan. But backers said the proposed rules would enhance women's safety by requiring that all clinics be inspected and meet state licensing standards.

"It's not an assault on women, but an umbrella of protection," said Portage Republican Margaret O'Brien.

The measure was supported by Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference. It was renounced by Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan, which staged a protest rally on Tuesday that brought about 200 officials and supporters to the Capitol.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said this week he expects his chamber to take up the legislation in September. He said his fellow Senate Republicans support the bills but extra time will allow for a careful review to make sure there are no problems.

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