State attorney general to review block on partial-birth abortion ban

DETROIT – Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox will study the June 4 federal appeals court decision blocking Michigan’s Legal Birth Definition Act, and consider an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We’re in the process of reviewing the court’s opinion. Obviously, we will be considering it in light of the Supreme Court’s Gonzales ruling, which upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortions,” Cox spokesman Rusty Hills said June 5.

He was referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s April 18 ruling in the Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood cases. Analysts said Michigan’s law is more sweeping than the federal statute and might apply to abortions not covered by the federal law.

The decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was denounced by Cardinal Adam J. Maida of Detroit, who pledged that he and other Michigan bishops would redouble their efforts to end “this unthinkable procedure,” which he characterized as infanticide.

“As long as the most innocent and vulnerable in our society – the unborn – remain at risk, the issue is not going away, and neither are those of us who fought so hard to protect the dignity of all human life,” the cardinal said.
Paul A. Long, vice president for public policy of the Michigan Catholic Conference, policy arm for the state’s bishops, said June 4: “Today’s ruling, which protects an ideology that has imposed upon our state and nation one of the must inhumane, sadistic and brutal acts of aggression that history will witness, is disappointing not only for women but also for the protection of innocent human life.

“Those who share a common interest in banning the unjust practice of partial-birth abortion will continue to work diligently until Michigan law reflects the will of the people,” he added.

Michigan Right to Life would be adding its voice to those urging Cox to defend the legislation by appealing to the high court, said Pam Sherstad, its director of public information.

The Legal Birth Definition Act takes a different approach to banning the procedure commonly known as partial-birth abortion than that of other legislative attempts, by declaring a baby to have been born – and therefore entitled to legal protection – at the point when any portion of his or her body has been vaginally delivered outside the mother’s body.

In partial-birth abortion, a live fetus is partially delivered and an incision is made at the base of the skull, through which the brain is removed, and then the dead body is delivered the rest of the way.

First adopted by the Michigan Legislature in 2003, the bill was vetoed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm. A successful petition drive – known as “The People’s Override” – brought the bill back before legislators in June 2004, and both the state House of Representatives and Senate enacted it into law.
When legislators adopt a bill that was placed before them by petition, it cannot be vetoed by the governor.

The act would have gone into effect at the end of March 2005, but a suit filed on March 1 of that year challenged the law. U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood put the law on hold pending her decision, then ruled it unconstitutional that September.

Cox appealed Hood’s decision, and the federal appeals court heard oral arguments last October, then June 4 issued its opinion upholding Hood’s permanent injunction.

Hills said it is Cox’s position that the Legal Birth Definition Act has been constitutional all along, but he declined to offer any prediction of when Cox would decide whether to appeal the decision, only that it would come after the attorney general and his staff had time to “prudently and thoroughly” review it.

He added, however, that there is a strong inclination on the part of the attorney general’s office to defend a law that was adopted by strong majorities in both houses of the state Legislature after being “supported by literally hundreds of thousands of Michigan voters” who petitioned for its passage.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.