Written by Shannon Moloney, originally posted at Michigan Life & Abortion Legal Briefing | Spring 2022.
Abortion in Michigan
Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, there have been 63 million abortions in the United States. The total population of the United States is 330 million, meaning that total abortions over the past 49 years amount to 19% of our current population.
10 million of these abortions have been in Michigan. Michigan aborts 20,000/year, 560/week, or 80/day. This is roughly the equivalent of a Kindergarten class daily, or elementary school weekly.
Legal History in Michigan
In 1846, Michigan passed a law making abortion illegal. This law was reaffirmed in 1931. In 1972, a pro-abortion law was on our ballot, but didn’t pass. This means that our original 1846 law has been upheld 3 times, most recently in 1972.
In 1973, Roe v. Wade AND Doe v. Bolton were decided by the Supreme Court, both on the same day–January 22nd. While Roe made abortion a constitutional right up to the point of viability (generally interpreted as 20-24 weeks in the states), Doe allowed abortion up through 9-months of pregnancy in the case of the woman’s health (here, health was defined to include mental health). Together, these created the potentiality for unrestricted abortion access in all stages of pregnancy, in every state.
Being a federal decision, Roe took precedence over Michigan’s 1846 law and abortion became available in Michigan.
Over the past 49 years, pro-life legislative groups have enacted laws that protect women and reduce the amount of abortions in Michigan. This included a law regarding clinic cleanliness, which caused Muskegon’s abortion clinic to be shut-down. Other laws have enacted requirements such as a 24-hour waiting period, an ultrasound prior to the procedure, and parental consent for minors.
Currently in the Supreme Court
In December of 2021, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This case arose out of a 2018 law passed in Mississippi that banned abortion after 15-weeks. This 15-week limit challenges Roe’s viability clause (20-24 weeks weeks in most states), so has escalated to the Supreme Court. (This law has been temporarily blocked and is not currently being enforced in Mississippi.)
The Supreme Court is expected to settle this case before its recess in June, but many expect an answer as early as April, and both pro-life and pro-abortion groups feel confident that Roe will be overturned. Rumors in Washington echo this.
If Roe is overturned, abortion immediately becomes a state issue. Access will default to whatever laws states already have on their books. Michigan would immediately become one of the most pro-life states in the U.S., with abortion completely illegal.
Currently in Michigan
A group called “Reproductive Freedom for All,” funded by ACLU of Michigan, Planned Parenthood of Michigan, and Michigan Voices, has sprung-up and has filed with the Michigan Board of Canvassers to launch a petition which, if it receives enough signatures, will place a state constitutional amendment on the ballot this November.
This amendment to our state constitution would override the existing 1846 law, and dozens of others. In addition to protecting abortion access, it woud affect: parental consent for minors seeking abortions and sterilizations, bans on human cloning, bans on partial-birth abortions, ultrasound and 24-hour waiting requirements, rape and incest laws, safety requirements in abortion clinics, tax-payer funding for abortions, conscience protections, bans on commercialized surrogacy, reporting requirements for abortion complications, and even the requirement that licensed physicians must be the ones to perform abortions.
What This Means
Roe may soon be overturned, and abortion may become illegal in Michigan.
Reproductive Freedom for All has had their application approved by the Michigan Board of Canvassers, and has begun work to gather 425,059 signatures by July. If they receive enough valid signatures, this amendment will be on our ballot in November.
Already, but especially if Roe is overturned, there will be significant pressure to pass this amendment. Michigan will become a primary national example of pro-life AND pro-abortion legislation in a post-Roe world. Warren Buffet, George Soros, and Bill Gates are among those pouring money into this amendment campaign. Right to Life of Michigan expects that it will need an estimated 50 million to adequately run a counter-campaign, which will not be easy to fund.
Be prepared to:
1) Discourage and educate people away from signing the petition. And if the amendment makes it to our ballot, be prepared to do the same for the ballot.
2) If Roe is overturned, be aware of the increased desperation of those facing unplanned pregnancy, and organizations meeting needs practically and legislatively.
3) And most of all, pray! For our Supreme Court justices, for Michigan, and for the organizations on the frontlines of this work this year.