Legal Birth Definition Act

Legal Birth Definition Act
P.A. 135 of 2004
MCL 333.1081-333.1085
Citizen Initiative
Effective Date March 30, 2005
Ruled unconstitutional in Northland Family Planning v Cox on June 4, 2007. The U.S. Supreme Court decided not to take up the case on January 4, 2008, rendering it unenforceable.

The Legal Birth Definition Act in essence, bans partial birth abortion, by declaring birth to be at the point where any portion of the child is vaginally delivered outside the mother's body.


The statute to be effective 3/30/05 was challenged in a suit filed on 3/1/05 by Planned Parenthood, several abortion clinics, with the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights serving as counsel. U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood approved putting the law on hold until 6/15/05. The judge then extended the delay until 9/14/05, when she ruled the Legal Birth Definition Act unconstitutional, claiming it puts an "undue burden" on obtaining an abortion and does not go far enough in protecting the health of the mother.

On October 26, 2006, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments regarding the Legal Birth Definition Act. This hearing was in response to Right to Life of Michigan's and Attorney General Mike Cox's appeal after a single judge ruled that the legislation was unconstitutional.

The Legal Birth Definition Act was once again ruled unconstitutional by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on June 4, 2007. The 3-0 decision resulted from the lack of a health exception and because it was written too broadly and could possibly outlaw second and even first trimester abortions.

Attorney General Mike Cox appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. On January 4, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to take up the case on its 2008 calendar. The LBDA is essentially unenforceable.

More History

On 4/23/03, Sen. Michelle McManus introduced S.B. 395, the Legal Birth Definition Act (LBDA). S.B. 395 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee and Chairman Cropsey held a hearing on Tuesday, 4/29/03. The committee added amendatory language to clarify some definitions and the bill was voted out of committee by a 4 to 3 vote. The full Senate passed the bill on Thursday, 5/1/03 by a vote of 24 to 12 with one excused absence and one abstention. S.B. 395 was then sent to the House and referred to the House Committee on Family and Children Services. The House Committee held a hearing on the bill and passed it by a vote of 6 to 3 on 5/06/03. SB 395 was taken up for a vote on the House floor on 5/14/03. Reps. Barb Vander Veen and Susan Tabor offered amendatory language to the bill to ensure that doctors who inadvertently injure a fetus while trying to avert an imminent threat to the physical health of the woman would be protected. The House also added clarifying language to protect doctors who are completing a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage). The House passed the amended version of SB 395 by a vote of 74 to 28 with 7 not voting. SB 395 was returned to the Senate.

Rep. Robertson introduced an identical version of the bill, HB 4603, in the House on 4/30/03 which was referred to the Committee on Family and Children Services. The committee held a hearing on 5/06/03 and passed the bill by a vote of 6 to 3. The full House took up HB 4603 on 5/08/03 and amended it so that HB 4603 and SB 395 are now exactly the same. HB 4603 was passed 74 to 29 with 6 not voting and was sent to the Senate where it was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

After the Senate voted to concur in House amendments, Governor Granholm received S.B. 395 on Tuesday, October 7th. On the Friday of that very same week, the Governor exercised her executive power and vetoed the bill. The legislative office made every effort possible in a legislative override attempt, however the votes were not available in the Senate.

The citizens of Michigan decided to take matters into their own hands after Governor Granholm vetoed the life-saving Legal Birth Definition Act. On January 15, 2004, Right to Life of Michigan kicked off "The People's Override" petition drive. We needed to collect 254,206 signatures in a six month window to bring the bill before the legislature, and remove the power of the veto from the Governor.

Right to Life of Michigan volunteers across the state collected 460,034 signatures. On April l5, 2004, the Michigan State Board of Canvassers approved The People's Override petition signatures. Prolife people collected signatures with a validity rate of 97.3 percent - a record according to the State Elections Division.

The petition drive was completed in half the allotted time required by law. We set a record in Michigan for the most signatures ever collected with all volunteer circulators.

On June 9, 2004, Michigan's House and Senate voted to pass the Legal Birth Definition Act, in effect overriding Governor Jennifer Granholm's earlier veto of identical legislation. By votes of 23-11 in the Senate and 74-28 in the House. The Legal Birth Definition Act became a law, without Governor Granholm's signature


Responding to the evolution of the partial birth abortion procedure, over 30 states have attempted to establish an outer boundary of legal abortion that does not allow for killing a live child that is partly outside his or her mother's body. Court actions reaching all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court have invalidated every such legislative effort, including two in the state of Michigan. In nearly every instance, legislation has focused primarily on defining and prohibiting the actions associated with the partial birth abortion procedure - namely, live partial delivery of the child, killing the child, then completing the delivery. The current federal bill already passed by the U.S. Senate, and pending in the U.S. House takes this approach.

The Legal Birth Definition Act (LBDA), takes a broader conceptual approach, working with the legal parameters established by the Roe v. Wade decision. While the Supreme Court in Roe pretended not to rule on when "life begins" and thus when a human being is considered a legal person, it de facto declared "life" not to begin until birth, and ruled that the Constitution is read to grant legal protection only to those human beings who have been born.

The LBDA is a straight forward effort to create a boundary for abortion by declaring birth, and the commencing of legal rights, to be at the point where any portion of a child is vaginally delivered outside the mother's body. Clearly the "right to abortion" defined by the Supreme Court never imagined abortion to include the live birth and subsequent killing of the child. Yet even with the Supreme Court's Carhart ruling in 2000 striking down a Nebraska partial birth abortion ban, it has never confronted the question of when a human being can be considered "born."

The LBDA would redefine legal birth so that a child would have the protections of legal personhood once any part of that child was visible outside of the mother's body. The bill does not restrict a specific abortion procedure, but would effectively prohibit partial-birth abortion.

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