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It's been a long, hard, demoralizing slog in Michigan lately. Recalls going down in flames (like the two for our odious governor.) Massive, successful ballot initiatives possibly threatened over the font size of three words on the petition. A complete and devastating takeover by Republicans (Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, House, Senate, Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.)

It's enough to make a Michigander want to crawl under a damn rock.

But lately there have been some signs of life. This week, facing the onslaught of a package of three bills being described as the most regressive anti-choice, forced-birth legislation in the country, Planned Parenthood of Michigan, in partnership with Progress Michigan, seems to have found a voice few other progressive groups have.

On Monday State House Republicans today a vote on the  package of bills. With hundreds of protesters filling the Capitol building and grounds, mostly women dressed in pink t-shirts sporting the phrase "Women are watching and we vote", a vote scheduled today was tabled.

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Planned Parenthood of Michigan issued the following statement:

Nearly 500 supporters of women’s reproductive health care swarmed the Michigan capitol in Lansing this afternoon wearing t-shirts saying “Women are Watching.” The crowd gathered to protest a sweeping House omnibus bill (HB 5711, 5712 and 5713) that would all but eliminate access to abortion care in Michigan.

“This is a big day for us,” said Lori Lamerand, chair of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan. “Politicians in Lansing thought they would be able to ramrod this bill without a peep from women, but they were wrong. Today the legislature got a civics lesson—women care about their access to basic reproductive health care, and they are watching what happens in Lansing.”

The protest came days after citizens were denied the opportunity to comment on the bill when it was before the House Health Policy Committee. On Thursday, committee chair Gail Haines, (R- Waterford Twp.) shut down the hearing rather than take testimony from groups like the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the Michigan Health and Hospital Association and the Michigan State Medical Society.

Women, men and professionals returned to Lansing today to witness the House vote on the 58-page bill, which has been pushed through the legislative process with unprecedented speed and without public comment. But as protestors crammed the gallery and others pounded on the Rotunda banister chanting “This is our House!” and “We will remember in November!” the House tabled the vote.

“We are not going away,” Lamerand concluded.

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Here is video from the more than hour-long protest inside the Capitol rotunda:

The package of bills tabled for a later vote contains the following provisions:

  • A severe time limit on when a woman can get an abortion without exceptions for the health of the woman or in cases where there is a severe fetal anomaly
  • Requirements that health centers providing abortion to become unnecessarily licensed as a freestanding surgical center. Medication abortions do not involve surgery. This onerous requirement could force all such health centers to close
  • A requirement that providers follow outdated FDA protocols when providing medication abortion despite scientific evidence that shows the commonly used evidence-based protocols to be safer for women
  • Prohibits telemedicine as a method for providing medication abortion for women
  • Supplemental bills include sentencing guidelines and criminal penalties against doctors

When asked about the purpose of the legislation, co-sponsor State Rep. Mike Shirkey said: "Until we completely eliminate abortions in Michigan and completely defund Planned Parenthood, we have work to do.”

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You can view more photos HERE. You can view video of pro-choice supporters being denied the right to testify at last week's hearing HERE.

Progress Michigan also gave folks a way to show their solidarity by changing their Facebook profile picture to THIS (right click & "Save as" to download) and cover photo to THIS (right click & "Save as" to download). When you do that, it looks like this when you're done:

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Today we learned that the postponed vote in the full House is likely to be happen tomorrow.

Planned Parenthood is working with Progress Michigan to organize another rally for tomorrow and has hopes that this one will be bigger than the one yesterday:

Did you see the photos and video of our visit to the Capitol yesterday?  It was a resounding success. We forced lawmakers to listen to their constituents - but they delayed voting on the biggest assault on women's health in our state's history. Now they're planning on voting tomorrow.  

Join us in downtown Lansing on the Capitol lawn at 10 AM tomorrow, Thursday, June 14, 2012.

Planned Parenthood is bringing the t-shirts, and we'll have the cameras. All that's missing is you, telling Lansing politicians that you stand with Planned Parenthood.

RSVP on Facebook or on their website. I hope we can count on you to be there.

Progress Michigan also has a petition drive going:
The Republican politicians in the Michigan Legislature are set to pass a sweeping and unprecedented attack on women’s health - in fact, it’s the biggest assault on women’s health in our state’s history.   We aren’t exaggerating. Their “omnibus abortion package” would saddle health centers with unnecessary and burdensome licensing requirements if they perform abortions, ban abortion after 20 weeks with no exemptions for rape, incest, or fetal defects, and punish doctors who violate the vague and limited exemptions with at least 15 years in jail.  This legislation is an attempt to completely shut down all abortion providers by instituting medically unnecessary regulations on health centers that provide abortion services. Now you can fight back against anti-choice extremists - sign our petition telling Lansing politicians to vote no on these bills today!

The bills surfaced last week after they were worked out in secret between anti-choice extremist lobbyists and Lansing Republicans. And it unfairly targets Planned Parenthood health centers that provide essential services for thousands of women:

  • 1 in 5 women will visit a Planned Parenthood health center in her lifetime.
  • Only 10 percent of Planned Parenthood patients have private health insurance.
  • For 75 percent of Planned Parenthood patients in Michigan, an appointment at a Planned Parenthood health center is the only health care they will receive in a given year.

The simple fact is that women don’t turn to politicians for advice about mammograms, prenatal care, or cancer treatments. Stand with Planned Parenthood - tell Lansing politicians to stay out of women’s personal medical decisions, and protect Michigan women and families by voting no on House Bills 5711, 5712, and 5713.

Planned Parenthood of Michigan is reporting that they now have 10,000 petition signatures and will deliver them during tomorrow's rally. They released the following statement this afternoon:
Reports from inside the Capitol indicate the bill may be amended today.  Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan opposes this bill in all forms.  Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan has been joined by leading members of Michigan’s health care and women’s advocacy community in calling on legislators to stop this bill.

Statement from Lori Lamerand, Chair of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan:

“They have awakened a sleeping giant.  Ten thousand Michigan residents have voiced their opposition to this bill today, and more will raise their voices at the ballot box.

“It’s clear this bill is about politics—not women’s health or safety.  Politicians in Lansing thought they could pass this bill without input from women and Michigan’s leading medical professionals.    

“We will continue to fight this bill.  Politicians should not be involved in a woman’s personal medical decisions about her pregnancy—period.”  

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan and allies are planning a second demonstration at the state House tomorrow.  Follow Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan’s activity to fight the bill at @mippadvocates.

This is a big deal. It's got national attention and is being watched closely. Rachel Maddow is taking notice, too. If you are in Michigan you can attend, please do. It's really that important.

Here are those links again:
Facebook event page HERE.
Event RSVP page HERE.
Online petition HERE.

UPDATE: Minutes after posting this, I learned that the House passed one of the three bills today and put off votes on the other two:

A deeply divided Michigan House on Wednesday approved new regulations for abortion providers after passionate floor debate on the issue.

House Republicans will not hold votes on two other abortion bills, including a controversial ban on most abortions after 20 weeks with a narrow exception for the mother's life.

"We decided not to take that up right now so we can discuss the legislation further," said Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall.

Lawmakers want to make sure the proposed ban after 20 weeks of pregnancy — which doesn't include an exception for rape, incest or fetal anomaly — is constitutional, Adler said.

The legislation that was passed requires more medical malpractice insurance for abortion providers who have lost two lawsuits, dictates how to dispose of aborted fetal remains, mandates abortion clinics become licensed surgical centers and prohibits doctors from prescribing the RU-486 abortion bill through an online service.

[Image credits: Progress Michigan and Planned Parenthood of Michigan, used with permission.]

Originally posted to Eclectablog - eclectic blogging for a better tomorrow on Wed Jun 13, 2012 at 03:54 PM PDT.

Also republished by Michigan, My Michigan.

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