Abortion rights advocates pledge to fight for reproductive autonomy in Michigan

For now, abortion is still legal in Michigan, but that could change

click to enlarge Protesters march in the streets of Detroit the day after a leak draft was published indicating that the U.S. Supreme Court would soon move to overturn Roe v. Wade. - Viola Klocko
Viola Klocko
Protesters march in the streets of Detroit the day after a leak draft was published indicating that the U.S. Supreme Court would soon move to overturn Roe v. Wade.

A dark day. A despicable, dehumanizing attack. A devastating blow.

That’s how some abortion-rights advocates from Michigan responded to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision in 1973 that established the right for people to terminate their pregnancy.

“Today is a sad day for America as an unelected group of conservative judges act squarely against the will of the people and medical expertise,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. “We can all sense the despair that tens of millions of Americans—our neighbors, family members and friends—are feeling right now. However we personally feel about abortion, health—not politics—should drive important medical decisions.”

The Supreme Court’s decision won’t have an immediate impact on abortion rights in Michigan. Although the state has a 1931 law still on the books that would ban abortion, a Michigan Court of Claims judge issued a preliminary injunction against the law last month in the response to a Planned Parenthood of Michigan lawsuit that argues the state's constitution protects abortion rights.

Judge Elizabeth Gleicher said Planned Parenthood is likely to prevail in its lawsuit.

"It is a dark day for our country and we are outraged,” Nicole Wells Stallworth, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, said. “By overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has signaled that it trusts politicians more than us to make our own, deeply personal, medical decisions. But this is far from over. We will not compromise on our bodies, our dignity, or our inherent rights. Michiganders should know that Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan will always fight for you, and we will not back down. Together, we will rebuild and reclaim our freedom. Let’s be clear – this ruling goes beyond abortion. This is about who has power to make decisions when it comes to our bodies and who can control our futures.”

In a separate case, Whitmer, who supports abortion rights, is asking the Michigan Supreme Court to recognize abortion as a right under the Due Process Clause of the state constitution.

The courts aren’t the only way to keep abortion legal. Reproductive Freedom for All, a coalition of advocacy groups, is expected to submit petitions soon to put abortion rights on the November ballot. If approved by voters, the petition drive would amend the state’s constitution to affirm abortion rights.

On the federal level, the U.S. House narrowly approved legislation along party lines to enact abortion rights as law. Although Democrats have a thin majority in the Senate, they have been hindered by centrist Democrats, Republicans, and the filibuster, a procedural rule that requires 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to advance most legislation.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, called on Democrats to abolish the filibuster.

“We will not stop fighting back to protect the lives, dignity, and rights of people and their right to choose,” Tlaib said. “Democrats in the Senate must abolish the filibuster, codify the right to an abortion, and expand the court to restore a semblance of legitimacy – our lives literally depend on it.”

Following the Supreme Court decision, advocates of reproductive autonomy pledged to fight for abortion rights. At 5 p.m. Friday, protesters will take to the streets in Detroit to support abortion rights. The rally and march begins at the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse at 231 W. Lafayette.

“It goes without saying that this decision is a despicable, dehumanizing attack on pregnant people’s human right to make their own decisions about their reproductive health,” Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, said. “We’ve been expecting this decision for months, but that doesn’t make the loss of abortion rights any less devastating. But while we mourn, we must also prepare to fight back.”

If abortion becomes illegal in Michigan, state Attorney General Dana Nessel said her office would not enforce the law.

“As I’ve repeatedly made clear, I will not use the resources of the Attorney General’s office to enforce an unconstitutional law that will allow the state into our bedrooms and doctor’s appointments, interfering with our fundamental reproductive rights,” Nessel said. “As long as I’m in office, I will not prosecute women, girls, or their doctors for seeking or providing abortion services. Nor will my staff seek licensure discipline against medical professionals who safely perform these procedures.”

A lot is at stake in November. Many Republicans running for local, state and federal offices are opposed to abortion rights.

If the ban goes into effect, Michigan’s 27 abortion clinics spread across 13 counties would be forced to close. The Supreme Court case could impact 2.2 million Michiganders between the ages of 15 and 49, according to the New York-based Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research group.

“This devastating U.S. Supreme Court ruling means that millions of Michigan women and families now live in a state that could revert back to a dangerous and draconian abortion ban,” Michigan Democratic Party spokeswoman Rodericka Applewhaite said. “That reality comes dramatically closer as every Republican running for governor has emphatically pledged to impose an extreme anti-choice agenda and enforce one of most extreme abortion bans in the nation that makes no exception for rape, incest, or the health of the mother. Meanwhile, Governor Whitmer continues to demonstrate strong leadership as she fights like hell to protect abortion access for Michiganders.”

Most voters in Michigan support abortion rights. In an EPIC-MRA poll of 600 likely voters in May, 63% of voters said they disagree with the Supreme Court’s draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Only 26% of voters said they support the draft decision.

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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