The legislature and the people of Michigan have adopted three laws to ban partial-birth abortion. Rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal courts have struck down all three laws as unconstitutional.
Partial Birth Abortion Ban of 1996
H.B. 5889 of 1996
P.A. 273 of 1996
Sponsor: Rep. Jim Ryan
Effective Date: March 28, 1997 - Ruled unconstitutional July 31, 1997
On June 6, 1996, Michigan became the first state in the nation to pass a ban on partial birth abortions. The effective language was identical to a 1996 federal bill, which overwhelmingly passed with bi-partisan support. The law prohibited a physician from performing a partial-birth abortion. A physician could perform a partial-birth abortion only if a pregnant woman's life was endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury and no other medical procedure would save the woman's life.
Rep. James Ryan introduced H.B. 5889 on May 21, 1996. On June 6, the House voted 63-36 and the Senate voted 28-8 to pass the ban. Governor John Engler signed it into law at a public ceremony on June 14, 1996.
As expected, the ACLU, on behalf of abortionists and abortion clinics, waited until 3 days before the law was to take effect on April 1, 1997 before filing a challenge to the law in federal court. Judge Gerald Rosen was assigned to the case. He refused to grant an immediate restraining order and chided the ACLU for its last-minute tactic. A hearing on the constitutionality of the law was scheduled for May 5-7, 1997. RLM coordinated with the Attorney General's office, national prolife lawyers, and RLM's private counsel to mount a strong defense of the ban.
However, on July 31, 1997, Judge Rosen issued a decision striking down Michigan's partial birth abortion ban. The 88-page opinion relied heavily on the testimony of the abortionists challenging the law. Based on the arguments used by Rosen to strike down the law, the decision would not make for a good test case on appeal. National Right to Life and Americans United for Life both recommended that the decision not be appealed.
Then in the 1997-98 legislative session, Senator Joel Gougeon worked intensely on re-drafting a law to prohibit partial birth abortions after Judge Gerald Rosen struck down the first ban. S.B. 888, the new partial birth abortion ban, was introduced on February 2, 1998.
S.B. 888 passed the Senate on June 4, 1998 by a vote of 29-8. The bill was then referred to House Judiciary Committee, which had a pro-abortion chairman and majority. This effectively killed the bill, as the bill, dealing with a health issue, traditionally would have been sent to the House Health Policy Committee.
Infant Protection Act of 1999
H.B. 546 of 1999
P.A. 107 of 1999
Sponsor: Rep. Joel Gougeon
Scheduled for effect March 10, 2000 - Struck down April 23, 2001
Michigan adopted a second law to ban partial birth abortion in 1999. The Infant Protection Act declared that a partially-born child is a legal person, and that killing such a child would constitute a felony punishable by up to life in prison and/or a fine of up to $50,000. It also was struck down as unconstitutional.
Senator Joel Gougeon introduced S.B. 546, the Infant Protection Act, on April 27, 1999. The Infant Protection Act was reported out of the Senate Families, Mental Health & Human Services Committee on 4/28/99. It was approved by the full Senate on 5/6/99 by vote of 28-8.
Representative Larry Julian introduced H.B. 4656 on May 11, 1999, a companion bill to S.B. 546, which created the criminal sentencing guidelines for persons violating S.B. 546. The Julian bill had 62 co-sponsors.
The Infant Protection Act received overwhelming support on the House floor, passing 70-37 on June 17, 1999. The same day, the Senate concurred on the House's technical amendments, sending the bill to the Governor. Governor Engler signed the Infant Protection Act on July 8, 1999.
The IPA was scheduled to take effect on March 10, 2000, but was temporarily blocked by federal judge Arthur Tarnow on March 9. Tarnow delayed hearing the case until after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Nebraska partial birth case, Stenberg v. Carhart. The Supreme Court ruled on June 28, 2000 that the Nebraska ban was unconstitutional for lack of a “health” exception. On April 23, 2001, Judge Tarnow permanently enjoined the law, saying that the Supreme Court's Stenberg decision was controlling in the Michigan case (WomanCare of Southfield, P.C. v. Granholm). On May 23, 2001, Attorney General Jennifer Granholm announced that she would not appeal the case, thus killing the law for good.
Legal Birth Definition Act of 2004
S.B. 395 of 2004
P.A. 135 of 2004
Sponsor: Sen. Michelle McManus
Scheduled for effect March 30, 2005 - Ruled unconstitutional June 4, 2007
Michigan adopted a third law to ban partial birth abortion in 2004. The Legal Birth Definition Act prohibits partial birth abortion by declaring birth to be at the point where any portion of the child is vaginally delivered outside the mother's body. Again the law was ruled unconstitutional.
Sen. Michelle McManus introduced S.B. 395, the Legal Birth Definition Act (LBDA) on April 23, 2003. The bill moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 29 on a 4-3 vote. The Senate passed the bill 24-12 on May 1, with one excused absence and one abstention. S.B. 395 was referred to the House Committee on Family and Children Services. The Committee reported out the bill on May 6 by a 6-3 vote. On the House floor, Reps. Barb Vander Veen and Susan Tabor offered amendatory language to the bill to ensure that doctors who inadvertently injure a fetus while trying to avert an imminent threat to the physical health of the woman would be protected. The House also added clarifying language to protect doctors who are completing a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage). On May 14, the House passed the amended version of SB 395 by a vote of 74 to 28 with 7 not voting.
Rep. Robertson introduced an identical version of the bill, HB 4603, in the House on April 30. HB 4603 passed 74-29 with 6 not voting and was sent to the Senate.
Governor Granholm received S.B. 395 on October 7 and vetoed it October 10. There were not enough votes in the Senate for a legislative override.
On January 15, 2004, Right to Life of Michigan kicked off "The People's Override," a citizen initiative to bypass the Governor’s veto and enact the Legal Birth Definition Act. RLM volunteers across the state collected 460,034 signatures in just three months, almost double the 254,206 signatures required and setting a state record for the most signatures collected with all volunteer circulators. On April l5, 2004, the Michigan State Board of Canvassers approved The People's Override petition signatures. Prolife people collected signatures with a validity rate of 97.3 percent, which set another record according to the State Elections Division.
On June 9, 2004, Michigan's House and Senate again voted to pass the Legal Birth Definition Act, 74-28 in the House and 23-11 in the Senate. The Legal Birth Definition Act became law without Governor Granholm's signature, effective March 30, 2005.
On March 1, 2005, Planned Parenthood and several abortion clinics filed suit challenging the Act, with the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights serving as counsel. U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood approved putting the law on hold until June 15, 2005. The judge then extended the delay until September 14, when she ruled the Legal Birth Definition Act unconstitutional, claiming it puts an "undue burden" on obtaining an abortion and does not go far enough to protect the health of the mother.
On October 26, 2006, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments regarding the Legal Birth Definition Act. This hearing was in response to Right to Life of Michigan's and Attorney General Mike Cox's appeal of Judge Hood’s decision. On June 4, 2007, The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Legal Birth Definition Act was unconstitutional (Northland Family Planning v Cox). The 3-0 decision resulted from the lack of a health exception and, according to the Court, because the Act was written too broadly and could possibly outlaw even first trimester abortions.
Attorney General Mike Cox appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. On January 4, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to take up the case on its 2008 calendar. The Legal Birth Definition Act is essentially unenforceable.