Under intense lobbying pressure from Gov. James J. Blanchard, the Michigan Legislature on Tuesday narrowly failed to override Blanchard's veto of a bill banning state funding for Medicaid abortions for poor women.
Anti-abortion legislators immediately vowed to keep fighting for the override.
In a 72-32 vote Tuesday afternoon, the anti-abortion movement came two votes short of a two-thirds majority it needed in the 110-member state House of Representatives. The override had been widely expected to pass by one or two votes, but at the last minute Blanchard, a Democrat, apparently persuaded two Democratic legislators to sustain his veto, House leaders said. In a statement, Blanchard hailed the vote as "a bipartisan vote for fairness and choice."
The failure to override the veto was particularly disappointing to the leaders of Michigan's anti-abortion movement because this legislative campaign was the closest they had ever come to ending state funding for abortions. Over the last 12 years, bans on abortion funding in Michigan have been vetoed 14 times by Democratic and Republican governors. The more conservative, Republican-controlled state Senate has twice voted to override gubernatorial vetoes, but the anti-abortion movement has always been a few votes short in the Democratic House.
The override fell short even though a group of at least four anti-abortion Republican legislators backed down from their threat not to vote for the override as a protest. They had been angered by the apparent decision by an influential anti-abortion organization, Right to Life in Michigan, to endorse a Democratic candidate in a special election to fill a vacant state Senate seat. In the end, the Republicans supported the override, and it was the loss of Democratic support that made the difference.
Rep. Michael Griffin, a Republican who is the main sponsor of the funding ban in the House, will make another attempt at an override in the near future, a spokeswoman for Griffin said Tuesday.