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Michiganders Mobilize to Defend Access to Abortion

Jeff Fuentes Gleghorn

People in Michigan are moving to defend access to abortion in the Great Lakes State. In May of this year, Politico released a draft opinion showing that members of the Supreme Court of the United States are planning to overturn Roe v Wade, a landmark case that called abortion a constitutional right. Michigan is one of 26 states that has an existing law banning abortion that will go into immediate effect if Roe v Wade is overturned. Michigan’s law, passed in 1931, would make having or providing an abortion a felony. It does not make exceptions for rape or incest, and only allows for an abortion to “preserve the life of” the woman.

As previously reported, “according to a study from 2020, 75 percent of Michiganders believe that abortion should remain legal. Perhaps surprisingly, over half of Republican voters agree that abortion should remain legal in Michigan as well, making this a bipartisan issue.” This broad support for the right to choose is playing out across the state today.

On May 3, just one day after Politico leaked the draft opinion, hundreds of protestors gathered outside the Michigan Capitol. Protestors expressed concern over losing access to abortion, or even how the leaked ruling might affect other rights.

Michigan doctors have also expressed concern over the vague wording of the law, wondering what will count as “preserving the life” of a woman. In an interview with NPR, Dr. Lisa Harris asked whether a 20 or 30 percent chance of death was high enough, or if it would need to be higher. She also questioned what might happen if a pregnant person was diagnosed with cancer, and needed to begin chemotherapy immediately. “There’s not an imminent risk of dying, but there might be a risk of dying years later if they didn’t have chemotherapy…immediately. So these are the kind of situations doctors are wondering about,” Dr. Harris said.

Governor Whitmer is already moving to protect abortion rights in Michigan. She is suing 13 county prosecutors to stop them from enforcing the 1931 abortion ban, and is using a Michigan specific power called “executive message” to ask the Michigan Supreme Court to immediately take the case. Governor Whitmer hopes that the Michigan Supreme Court will say the 1931 law violates the state constitution.

In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan filed their own lawsuit asking the courts to stop the Michigan Attorney General and all county prosecutors from enforcing the 1931 law. The ACLU argues that the 90-year-old law violates the rights of Michigan residents of liberty, bodily integrity, equal protection, and to privacy.

The ACLU has also partnered with Reproductive Freedom for All to collect signatures for a ballot proposal to amend the Michigan State Constitution. The proposal would change the Michigan Constitution to make access to abortion a fundamental right, and prevent political interference in decisions about abortion, birth control, prenatal care, and childbirth. Reproductive Freedom for All has reported a significant surge in signatures following the Politico leak. They also announced that over 25,000 Michiganders had volunteered to assist with getting signatures for the proposal, which could be on the ballot this November if they meet the signature requirements.