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Michigan Legislature Bans Medicaid Abortions, Judge Delays Law

June 23, 1987

LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ The Michigan Legislature approved a ban on state funding for abortion on Tuesday, but a judge stayed enforcement of the law until he could rule on a dispute over the effective date.

Less than two hours after the 66-41 vote in the state House, Ingham County Circuit Judge James Giddings issued the temporary restraining order. A hearing was set before another judge on Monday.

″The act is enjoined at this point,″ said John Pirich, an attorney for a pro-choice coalition. ″If they are an indigent person, they will continue to receive state funding.″

Similar legislation had been vetoed 17 times since 1978 by Gov. James Blanchard, a Democrat, and his Republican predecessor, William Milliken.

This bill, however, faced no threat of veto because anti-abortion campaigners used the state Constitution’s provision for initiatives. Right to Life of Michigan gathered 460,000 signatures on petitions favoring the bill.

The Michigan Constitution requires the Legislature to approve bills originated by the citizenry or put them before the voters at the next general election.

Last year, Michigan paid about $5.8 million for some 18,600 abortions for poor women. It is one of only 14 states in the nation that uses taxpayer money to finance abortions.

Before the vote, Rep. Maxine Berman argued the proposal singled out poor women, while ignoring the state funds used to pay for abortions for ″legislators, judges, department heads and thousands of staff people and their families.″

Berman said she was particularly outraged that the ban didn’t provide exemptions for the victims of rape, incest or women infected with AIDS.

Rep. Nick Ciaramitaro countered: ″To use public resources to destroy the lives of defenseless children, even before their birth is more than an abdication of our responsibilities ... it is an atrocity.″

The court fight over the proposal’s effective date was preceded by Speaker Pro Tem Teola Hunter’s ruling that the bill required a second two-thirds vote to take effect upon passage.

But members of the House voted 66-42 to overturn her ruling, just as their counterparts in the Senate did June 10.

According to the constitution, bills going through the Legislature must gain the support of two-thirds of both chambers to take effect immediately. If not, they become effective about April 1, or 90 days after the session ends each year in December.

The only way the proposal could be reversed is if the coalition of pro- choice groups fulfills its promise to collect enough signatures to force a referendum on the law in 1988.

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