Getting Rid of Roe is Only Half of the Battle. Michigan Is on the Front Lines

Getting Rid of Roe is Only Half of the Battle. Michigan Is on the Front Lines
Getting Rid of Roe is Only Half of the Battle. Michigan Is on the Front Lines

The press is full of dire predictions for the whole human race if the U.S. Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade. If the leaked draft opinion predicts the eventual Court decision, the bad days of Roe will soon be behind us.

Contrary to those who predict legal chaos, the post-Roe situation is relatively simple. Before Roe, each state had its own set of laws regulating abortions. If the Supreme Court does reverse the catastrophic 1973 decision, those laws will once again become effective unless the state legislature has changed them.

Seizing Powers Beyond the Law

Thus, pro-lifers must review their states’ laws, especially if they have governors that favor the opposition. Those who call themselves “pro-choice” will try to impose their fatal opinions on their states, no matter what the law says. They cannot be allowed to get away with it.

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The state of Michigan offers a fine example of the possibilities and conflicts ahead.

On May 9, 2022, The Hill ran an article with a highly descriptive title—“Whitmer: I’m Not Going to Wait for Congress to Act on Abortion.” It quoted an op-ed that the Michigan Governor contributed to the New York Times. The issue was procured abortion, and the Governor was bold in her support for the death of unborn babies. Her words extend far beyond her legal powers.

“I am not going to sit on my hands waiting for Congress to do something,” the Governor wrote. “Whether through legislation, executive action, ballot initiative or civic engagement, the answer to the overtly political ruling of a supposedly apolitical, unelected body is to engage in every way and at every level. Without seeing the irony in her words, she adds, “If we do not use every lever of power we have right now, or if we succumb to complacency, Americans will suffer and may die.”

Furthermore, she has called on the Michigan Supreme Court to step in if the U.S. Supreme Court ruling has a different opinion.

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Her words echo many liberal governors who promise quick and decisive action.

The People Have Spoken

The Michigan Legislature and Michigan’s citizens have already spoken out clearly about this evil practice.

In terms of the Michigan abortion law, November 7, 1972, is the crucial date. It was election day. Most national media focused on the presidential race between President Richard Nixon and Senator George McGovern. The President was re-elected in a landslide—getting 60.7% of the vote against Sen. McGovern’s 37.5%. President Nixon’s victory was so convincing that NBC called the election before 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time—four hours before the polls closed in some Western states.

In Michigan, abortion was also on the ballot, in the form of “Proposal B.”

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Abortion was already illegal in almost all cases—a threat to the mother’s life was the only exception—since 1846. In 1931, the Legislature rewrote the law to make it more straightforward and further simplified it in 1948. “Any person who shall willfully administer to any pregnant woman any medicine, drug, substance or thing whatever, or shall employ any instrument or other means whatever, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of any such woman, unless the same shall have been necessary to preserve the life of such woman, shall be guilty of a felony, and in case the death of such pregnant woman be thereby produced, the offense shall be deemed manslaughter.”

Anticipating Success

However, by 1972, there was considerable ferment to “reform” the nation’s abortion laws. The Sexual Revolution had begun, and the new term “feminists” described those who wanted women to have greater “opportunities” before the law and in the workforce. To them, children represented a roadblock that would hinder women’s exercising their newfound “liberation.”

The nation’s two largest states had already taken steps to make procured abortions—legal California in 1969 and New York in 1970.

So, Michigan’s supporters of so-called “abortion rights” formed the “Michigan Abortion Referendum Committee.” The committee led a petition effort that collected 229,044 verified signatures to put their proposal before the state’s voters.

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“PROPOSAL TO ALLOW ABORTION UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS. The proposed law would allow a licensed medical or osteopathic physician to perform an abortion at the request of the patient if, (1) the period of gestation has not exceeded 20 weeks, and (2) if the procedure is performed in a licensed hospital or other facility approved by the Department of Public Health. Should this proposed law be approved?”

A Surprise Victory…

Many people thought that the measure would pass easily. Earlier in the year, the state legislature had overwhelmingly approved the feminist’s favorite law—the so-called Equal Rights Amendment. Governor William Milliken, a liberal Republican, favored both the ERA and the new abortion proposal.

Perhaps more importantly, there was almost no organized resistance. Then, only a few months before the vote, pro-life supporters formed the “Voice of the Unborn Coalition.” Lacking a large bank account, the Coalition focused on printing fliers. Volunteers then placed the fliers on cars in grocery store and mall parking lots during the weekends just before the election. Many people (this author’s mother included) received two or three of the handouts. Virtually all of the news media ignored the desperate effort.

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The election result surprised almost everyone, even many of the volunteers. Slightly over sixty percent of Michigan’s voters opposed abortion. It was not even a case of urban voters supporting liberalization and rural voters opposing it. Michigan’s most urban county, Wayne (where Detroit is located), overwhelmingly voted no513,972 to 346,566. Only one of Michigan’s 83 counties supported the change—Washtenaw, home of the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University.

…Turned Into Defeat

Of course, three months after the pro-life victory in Michigan, the Supreme Court clutched all power in the realm of abortion to itself in the disastrous Roe v. Wade decision.

The Roe decision shocked the nation. According to his one-time assistant, Monica Crowley, even President Nixon didn’t see it coming. Not only had the Supreme Court rewritten every state’s abortion laws, but it had also taken an extreme position that allowed virtually no regulation by the states. Nineteen years later, Planned Parenthood v. Casey allowed some state restrictions, but very few. Even today, the United States has abortion laws that are far more liberal than those of even the most left-leaning European nations.

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The Supreme Court handed the “pro-choice” faction success beyond their wildest dreams with one stroke. However, most states simply left the old, now unenforceable, laws on the books.

Legal Challenges Have Already Begun

So, those laws remain on the books—ready to resume their proper functioning should Roe be overruled.

However, the leftists are already telling their lawyers to get those old laws set aside.

Michigan’s Governor Whitmer is already challenging the 1931 law. The State Supreme Court didn’t set the law aside but agreed to hear the arguments on an expedited basis. The Court could comply with the Governor’s wishes, finding (or devising) a right to abortion in the State Constitution. It could also decide that the 1931 law and the 1972 referendum are again in force.

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One thing is clear. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, each state will need to decide what its abortion laws will be. Some, like New York and Virginia, have already come down on the pro-abortion side. Others, like Florida and Oklahoma, are protecting innocent life. States like Michigan are in legal limbo—and could go either way.

It is more important than ever that pro-lifers find out where their states stand on this crucial issue.

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