Pro-life leaders express disappointment and determination
Citizens across the state of Michigan enshrined a right to abortion into their state constitution in an election held on November 8. By a roughly 13-point spread, voters decided that “an individual’s right to reproductive freedom shall not be denied, burdened, nor infringed upon unless justified by a compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive means,” establishing a fundamental right to abortion under “reproductive freedom.”
Michigan law allows for a proposal to be added to the ballot once enough signatures (at least 10% of the number of votes cast in the last governor’s election) are collected within the required time frame. The campaign to place the proposal on the ballot was led by Reproductive Freedom for All, ACLU of Michigan, Michigan Voices, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan.
On October 10, the Michigan Catholic Conference released a statement urging Catholic voters to “Vote NO” on Proposal 3. Signed by bishops from all seven Michigan dioceses, the document terms the amendment an “immense threat to the dignity of human life,” and “the most extreme proposal concerning abortion this state or country has ever seen.” The statement also calls on Catholic voters to recognize their duty in creating “a world where abortion is unthinkable,” directing their flock to cultivate “a renewed dedication to supporting women in need who may find themselves in difficult pregnancies or crisis situations” and to “walk with women in need … before, during and after pregnancy.”
Despite efforts from pro-life advocates across the state to educate voters on the proposal, which constitutes a radical shift in abortion policy in Michigan, the petition received over 730,000 signatures—a record number—and was added to the ballot in the November midterm election.
Prior to this amendment, an existing Michigan law from 1931 made it a felony to perform an abortion except in the case of protecting the life of the mother. This law was partially nullified with the Roe v. Wade decision in 1972 until the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson in June 2022 when it was revived. In September of this year, the 1931 law was enjoined. Following the passage of this proposal, this older law is invalidated, along with any other abortion restrictions.
Any state restriction or regulation of abortion is now invalid if a “healthcare professional,” even abortion practitioners, deems it necessary for a woman’s physical or mental health, effectively allowing abortion through the entire pregnancy in many cases. Furthermore, the amendment only permits the regulation of abortion, so other aspects of reproductive health—including contraception, childbirth, infertility, and even sterilization—are immune from state interference.
Proposal 3 also prohibits all state interference in decisions made in “pre-viability pregnancies.” Any regulations after fetal viability—including parental consent and clinic licensing—are now subjected to stricter scrutiny than the “undue burden test” previously required nationwide under Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
Additionally, the amendment redefines “viable pregnancies” to now encompass only those in which a fetus can survive outside of the womb “without the application of extraordinary medical measures.” This definition allows abortion until birth for any child who may require neonatal care post-birth but would otherwise survive.
Natalie Shields, the Outreach Director of local non-profit, Right to Life Michiana, expressed her concern with these “extreme” measures which “permanently rewrite the state’s constitution to reflect a drastic expansion of abortion. The new language in the proposal allows late-term abortions up to the moment of birth while also stripping rights of parents in cases of abortions performed on minors.”
Exact implications of these rights and standards are not yet entirely clear in the text of the amendment, meaning the full impact will only be understood in light of the inevitable legal battles in the Michigan court system. Legal experts have said this is likely to invalidate some two dozen Michigan laws, resulting in abortion and sterilization on demand, lack of parental consent (or even notification of a minor obtaining an abortion), abortionist veto power over health regulations, partial-birth abortion, and taxpayer funding for abortions.
According to data from the Charlotte Lozier Institute, there were 30,074 abortions reported in the state of Michigan in the year 2021. In comparison, there were 8,414 abortions in Indiana. With Indiana’s SB1 currently enjoined, but predicted to be re-instated when the Indiana Supreme Court hears the case in January of 2023, the discrepancy between abortion law in Indiana and Michigan will pose challenges for those seeking to deter women from obtaining abortions in Indiana.
In an interview with the Rover, Mary Carmen Zakrajsek, the Indianapolis-based Great Lakes Regional Coordinator for Students for Life of America, emphasized Indiana pro-lifers’ responsibility to “reach these women before they become victims of our neighbor’s deadly business.”
Programs such as Whole Woman’s Health of South Bend’s Abortion Wayfinder Program have already begun, which pledge to “protect and expand access to abortion care for patients who are denied care because of bad laws in their home state” and “help people find their way to the abortion healthcare they need.”
“Shuffling women across state lines to commit violence toward their children is a reality that must be faced head-on.” Zakrajsek predicts that “Michigan will become the hub of abortion trafficking and unregulated, unlicensed facilities will stop at nothing to make money off the lives of vulnerable women and children.”
Shields agreed that “Michigan is making itself a tourist destination for women seeking abortion,” however, is adamant that “Right to Life Michiana will continue working tirelessly to connect women and unborn children to authentic care.”
As states continue to enact pro- and anti-abortion measures post-Dobbs, Zakrajsek believes that it is more important than ever that those seeking to protect the lives of the pre-born are aware of surrounding state’s laws and regulations. Zakrajsek emphasizes: “No one deserves a death sentence for residing in their mother’s womb, at home or across state lines. Indiana will continue our life-affirming support to counter the lie that women need abortion, and pregnancy help awareness—as opposed to pregnancy violence—must increase exponentially on the local and state level.”
Evan Maxwell Thomas Aquinas Bursch is a junior from Caledonia, Michigan majoring in physics, philosophy, and theology. He lives in O’Neill Family Hall (the best hall on campus). For questions about any of his current, past, or potential majors please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Merlot Mary Germaine Fogarty is a junior studying theology, political science, and constitutional studies. She is the president of Notre Dame Right to Life and can be contacted via email@example.com.
Photo Credit: Michigan State House