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Michigan Legislature passes veto-proof parental consent abortion law

By RICK PLUTA and LYNN TURNER

LANSING, Mich. -- The Legislature Wednesday passed a veto-proof law denying abortions to girls under age 18 without the permission of a parent or legal guardian, making Michigan the 34th state to legally limit a minor's access to abortion.

The measure, passed 28-9 in the Senate and 61-40 in the House, will go into effect April 1, 1991. Because it was introduced into the Legislature by a petition drive, not by a legislator or the governor, it cannot be vetoed.

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But the legislation is expected to face an immediate court challenge. Zolton Ferency, a criminal law professor at Michigan State University, filed suit in Ingham County Circuit Court in Lansing challenging the law on the grounds that it violates constitutional equal protection guarantees. No court date was set.

The law would require written permission from a parent or guardian before an abortion could be legally performed on a girl under age 18. Girls who are reluctant to bring the issue up with a parent could seek a waiver by a probate court judge.

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A similar measure passed by both houses of the Legislature was vetoed on Feb. 23 by Gov. James Blanchard, prompting the anti-abortion group Right to Life of Michigan to begin the petition drive that led to the law passed Wednesday.

Sen. Jack Welborn, a Republican who is one of the Legislature's most ardent abortion opponents, argued that the parental consent law will lead youngsters to use birth control or abstain from sex.

'It will be used as a deterent to pregnancy,' he said.

Bill Bell of Indiana, whose 17-year-old daughter, Becky, died in 1988 from a botched illegal abortion she received because she was apparently afraid to tell her parents that she was pregnant, flatly denounced such attitudes.

'I would like to have them acknowledge that laws are not going to regulate teen-age sexuality,' Bell said. 'What I would like to see is the proponents of these laws that limit the rights of kids who are pregnant tell the public where the money is funneled into sex education to provide the proper information about sex and birth control.'

Abortion rights advocates said they were not surprised that the measure was passed, and believed the move would help spur opponents of the law into action.

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'This was not unexpected,' said Rep. Maxine Berman, a Democrat who had spoken on the floor of the House for nearly 10 minutes urging her colleagues to defeat the measure 'A lot of teen-agers are going to be in a horrible position as a result of this.'

Margy Long of Planned Parenthood said she believed abortion rights advocates have been slowly gaining ground for the past year but still have a long way to go. The result of the parental consent law, she said, will be an increase in the number of low birthweight babies and more girls showing up in hospitals suffering the effects of illegal or self- inflicted abortions.

'But, as you say, it will be difficult to keep statistics, but it's going to be the same as we've seen after Medicaid-funded abortions were cut,' Long said.

Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing said that a parental consent law would bring Michigan in line with the U.S. Supreme Court's 1989 Webster vs. Reproductive Services decision that gave states greater leeway in restricting abortions, and she said more such legislation could be coming.

Right to Life of Michigan gathered more than 200,000 signatures to bring the measure before the Legislature, well over the 191,726 needed. The signatures were validated on Monday, and the measure officially was introduced on Tuesday. The Legislature had 40 days to act, or the initiative would have automatically been placed on the 1992 general election ballot.

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