A swarm of pink invaded the Michigan Capitol Tuesday afternoon when hundreds of pro-choice advocates clad in Planned Parenthood T-shirts gathered to protest a series of anti-abortion legislation going through the House of Representatives.
The legislation, a set of three bills redefining abortion regulations, prompted women’s health groups from across the state to gather in protest, divided by their stances of abortion on either side of the Capitol lawn.
Kim Beebe, president of the Oakland-Macomb chapter of the National Organization for Women, said she was outraged the bills had been introduced.
“There is no other bill in the country that will severely restrict women’s ability to get a safe, legal abortion,” she said.
The bills restrict abortion past 20 weeks of pregnancy and require physicians to adhere to new reporting and disposal regulations that some say could cause some abortion clinics to go out of business. Patients seeking abortions also must prove they were not coerced into having one.
The main bill was introduced by Rep. Bruce Rendon, R-Lake City, last week and is expected to be up for a House vote on Wednesday.
After the protest on the Capitol lawn, the protestors stormed into the Capitol for the House session, turning the upper gallery pink from their T-shirts.
Several legislators also received shirts and buttons, prompting cheers from abortion rights supporters in the gallery, some of whom were asked to leave after disrupting the session.
A smaller but also outspoken group of anti-abortion advocates gathered across the sidewalk from the abortion rights group outside the Capitol, saying the bills will encourage better abortion practices.
“This is to keep the facilities clean, to keep abortions accountable,” said Karen Walacavage, treasurer of Right to Life of Washtenaw County. “We’re not here to end it but to keep women safe.”
MSU Students for Life President Lisa Jankowski, a general management sophomore, said the new physician regulations — which require physicians to properly report a fetal death and provide details of the fetus’ gestation before the abortion — are a great idea to ensure accountability and quality health care services to women.
“The pro-choice groups say they fight for women’s rights, and if they do, then I do not understand why this particular part of the bill would be an issue,” she said.
Jackson resident Jennah Sailor also was among the anti-abortion advocates counterprotesting on Tuesday, representing Jackson Students for Life. As she watched the pink-clad crowd nearby, she said she doesn’t understand why there is opposition to a bill that provides protection for women and accountability to abortion practices.
But Beebe disagreed, saying if abortions are illegal or less available, women will resort to “back alley abortions” — like those before the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case — that could be harmful to them.
“Anybody who says that this will protect women, (even if) they are 100 percent certain that no one in their life will be affected, is wrong. They’re dead wrong,” she said.
Walacavage said the reason abortion has been contested recently is because it is an election year and the candidates are trying to debate a traditionally hot-button issue.
Sailor added that asking taxpayers to fund abortion services or contraception that they disagree with should not be allowed because it goes against religious freedoms.
“If (taxpayers) have to pay for something they think is wrong, it’s taking away their right to choose,” she said.
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