LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Abortion opponents yesterday turned
in more than 460,000 petition signatures to state elections
officials in an effort to return to the Republican-controlled
Legislature a bill that would outlaw a certain abortion
procedure.

The initiative is aimed at getting into law a bill that would
define the moment a person is legally born as being when any part
of a fetus is expelled from a woman’s body. It’s
intended to ban a procedure referred to by critics as partial-birth
abortion and by medical organizations as “intact dilatation
and extraction” — or D&X.

If election officials approve the petition signatures, the bill
only would need a simple majority vote from the House and Senate to
take effect. It wouldn’t have to be signed by Gov. Jennifer
Granholm, who vetoed the bill in October.

The Democratic governor said the bill didn’t include an
exception for the health of the mother and added that the
bill’s definition of life could make it apply to
first-trimester abortions.

“It has the ability to ban all abortions in
Michigan,” said Shelli Weisberg, legislative director for the
American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

Weisberg said the ACLU would file a lawsuit to stop the law from
taking effect, which likely wouldn’t be until next spring
because the House and Senate do not have the two-thirds vote needed
to allow it to take effect immediately.

A federal ban on so-called partial birth abortions is tied up in
the courts.

Michigan failed in 1996 and 1999 to have the courts declare
constitutional a ban on so-called partial-birth abortions mostly
because they didn’t include exceptions for the health of the
mother.

Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing said the new
bill will withstand a court challenge. She said it’s stronger
than an Ohio ban on the late-term abortion procedure upheld late
last year by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“This legislation does not specify a specific type of
abortion,” she said, standing next to a large pyramid of
boxes of petition forms outside the Elections Division of the
Secretary of State’s office in Lansing.

A number of groups participated in the petition-gathering
effort, called “The People’s Override,” including
the Michigan Catholic Conference. They submitted 460,034
signatures, nearly twice as many as the 254,206 needed to send the
bill back to lawmakers.

Listing said she expected it would take 45 to 60 days for the
Elections Division to review the petition signatures. When they are
approved, the Legislature has 40 days to sign off on the bill
before it would go to voters on the ballot.

The House and Senate likely will take up the bill before
beginning their summer recess.

“As soon as we’re able to we’re going to take
it up,” said Bill Nowling, spokesman for Republican Senate
Majority Leader Ken Sikkema of Wyoming.

House Speaker Rick Johnson (R-LeRoy) and Sikkema were among the
87 lawmakers who signed a petition for the initiative, said Ed
Rivet of Right to Life of Michigan.

Similar initiatives have worked twice in the past.

A 1988 initiative stopped the state from using Medicaid funding
for abortions. Another in 1990 got a bill into law requiring
parental consent before a minor could have an abortion.

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