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Published: Tuesday, 1/1/2013

Splitting the difference

For weeks, there was intense speculation about whether Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, widely seen as a moderate on social issues, would sign two controversial anti-abortion bills. In the end, he split the difference.

He signed a law that will require most abortion clinics to be licensed and regulated, as surgical clinics are now. The measure requires fetal remains to be disposed of by cremation, incineration, or burial; forbids patients in the early stages of pregnancy to get abortion medication without an office visit, and — in its most controversial provision — requires doctors to ask whether a woman is being “coerced” into seeking an abortion.

The bill is not all bad. Making it illegal to toss fetuses into Dumpsters makes sense. An argument can be made for tighter supervision of clinics, especially those that perform later-term abortions.

Overall, though, the new law’s regulations may make clinics harder to open. The anti-“coercion” requirement could mean some women may feel intimidated when they choose abortion. These provisions would have justified a gubernatorial veto of the bill.

Mr. Snyder deserves praise for vetoing another bill that would have required women who seek health insurance to buy an additional rider covering abortion, even in the case of rape or extreme risk to the health of the mother.

Rejecting this bill may have been especially hard for the governor because it was attached to one of his legislative priorities; major reform that would transform Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan from a tightly regulated charity to a conventional nonprofit insurer. Now, he’ll have to start that effort all over again.

Governor Snyder said it’s wrong to tell private insurers and employers what they can put in their contracts. However, he appeared to hint that he might accept a bill that restricted abortion coverage while making the familiar rape, incest, and life-of-the-mother exceptions.

But the last thing Michigan needs is lawmakers injecting personal ideology into bills on unrelated topics. Most of all, Michigan needs sane strategies to make its economy and job climate competitive. Social engineering needs to be put on the back burner, at least until all of the state’s professional engineers again have jobs.



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