Abortion supporters sign a petition in Eastern Market in Detroit to amend the state's constitution to affirm abortion rights.
Abortion remains temporarily legal in Michigan due to an injunction against the state’s 1931 ban
, but proponents of the Reproductive Freedom For All measure to bring the issue to the ballot are preparing to fight for permanent access.
“If we revert to the archaic Michigan 1931 banning abortion, it will be a giant step backward not only for women's health but for humanity as a whole,” OB-GYN Dr. Rossana DeGrood said at a press conference Thursday.
The Reproductive Freedom For All proposal is attempting to amend the state constitution to enshrine the rights to abortion, birth control, and prenatal care without political interference.
It received more than 750,000 signatures to be placed on the November ballot to give Michigan voters the final say. Michigan’s extreme anti-abortion law was nullified by Roe v. Wade
, but since the landmark ruling was repealed by the U.S. Supreme Court, the 1931 ban could go back into effect.
DeGrood said lives are at stake. The current law only makes a vague exception when the pregnant woman's life is at risk, making it challenging for doctors to know where to draw the line. If a prosecutor disagrees on what constitutes a life-threatening situation, the medical professional performing the abortion could face jail time.
Women in states with similar abortion bans have already begun to see the consequences.
“In Wisconsin, pregnant women are being forced to delay life-saving health care because doctors understandably fear criminal prosecution for offering the safe, evidence-based health care that they were trained to provide,” DeGrood said. “One Wisconsin woman bled for more than 10 days unnecessarily because her doctor was afraid to treat her incomplete miscarriage with a simple [dilation and curettage surgery]. There was also a national story recently of a woman having to travel to Michigan to get treatment for her life-threatening ectopic pregnancy because her physician in her home state was afraid to treat her.”
The law also makes no exception for cases of rape or incest.
“We’ve all heard the heartbreaking story of the 10-year-old child in Ohio a victim of rape, being forced to go to Indiana for abortion care because of Ohio’s ban. It’s horrible to think about young Michigan girls being forced to travel to other states for care after being raped or being forced to carry that pregnancy to term and deliver,” DeGrood said. “We don't want young girls whose bodies aren’t ready for children to be forced to give birth.”
Michigan Republican gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon has backed up her stern “no exceptions” stance on abortion by asserting that she believes victims of rape can “heal through the baby.”
Other opponents of the proposal express concerns that it will take away parental consent rights for parents of minors seeking abortion, or that it’ll be an open season where abortions are performed past the point of fetal viability (when a fetus is able to survive outside the mother’s uterus).
DeGrood called it “ludicrous."
“To say that if this constitutional amendment passes that we will be performing abortions up until term is ludicrous, I’m sorry,” she said. “Physicians in Michigan have never performed abortions beyond the stage of fetal viability period… I don’t have the exact statistic but I would venture to guess somewhere around 90 to 95 % of pregnancy terminations occur within the first couple of months of pregnancy
She later clarified that “elective abortions” are not typically performed after fetal viability since late terminations occur in rare cases where the infant is "incompatible with life."
ACLU of Michigan attorney Bonsitu Kitaba said Reproductive Freedom For All only aims to restore the standards of Roe v. Wade
“If we vote no on this measure and it does not pass, no woman in Michigan will be allowed to get an abortion, and doctors… will face criminal prosecution for making safe medical decisions based on their years of experience and qualification. So at the end of the day, that's the bottom line,” Kitaba said at the conference.
Meanwhile, anti-abortion group Citizens Supporting Michigan Women and Children is asking the Board of State Canvassers to disqualify Reproductive Freedom For All from the ballot due to “serious errors.”
The “errors” are text where spaces occur to be missing in between several words.
The board is scheduled to meet on Aug. 31 where they will further discuss the issue. A lawsuit filed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in April asking the Michigan Supreme Court to determine whether abortion is protected by the state’s constitution is ongoing.
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