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Approaching Michigan’s abortion rights future

a sign that says "stop abortion now" and another that says "keep abortion legal"
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A recap of Stateside's series on abortion rights in Michigan.

Michiganders may have to reckon with a new legal landscape for abortion access this year.

For nearly half a century, the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling has federally protected the right to an abortion before fetal viability under the U.S. Constitution. But the court is revisiting that precedent as it prepares to release a decision this spring on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case.

Currently, abortion is federally protected in Michigan, with some restrictions on timing, funding, and steps required. Except in cases where a patient’s life is endangered, abortion is not allowed in Michigan beyond the point of fetal viability in the second trimester of pregnancy.

A Supreme Court repeal of Roe would allow Michigan prosecutors to resume enforcement of a currently dormant total ban from 1931.

Advocates on both sides of the abortion rights debate are preparing for what happens next if federal law changes. And they say that Michiganders who may not have been paying close attention to this issue should be prepared to, in their communities and possibly at the ballot box.

To shed light on the current status, possible future, and complex reality of abortion in Michigan, Stateside brought listeners a series of conversations on abortion rights law, advocacy, belief, and experience.

Zachary Gorchow is publisher of Gongwer News Service, and has been following the politics of abortion law for may years. He joined us to explain the current state of the law, the major players in the abortion rights fight, and the factors that make this issue’s future so hard to predict.

The state of the law in Michigan...is that abortion is legal only because of Roe versus Wade.
Zachary Gorchow
Zachary Gorchow

Genevieve Marnon is the Legislative Director of Right to Life of Michigan, a prominent leader of the abortion rights opposition movement in the state. She explained Right to Life’s current goals and the multiple scenarios that the organization is preparing for, legislatively and across a network of community partners.

We are preparing for the eventual overturning of Roe and having Michigan become an abortion free state, and what does that look like?
Genevieve Marnon
Genevieve Marnon

Nicole Wells Stallworth is the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood of Michigan, and Sommer Foster is Co-Executive Director of Michigan Voices. Along with the ACLU, their organizations hope to enshrine reproductive rights, including the right to an abortion, in Michigan’s state constitution. They joined us to discuss why and how the Reproductive Freedom for All coalition is looking to appeal directly to voters through a ballot petition drive.

We believe that access to an abortion is your personal right as well as other medical services, and you should be able to access those and receive those with dignity and care and privacy. And we don't believe that it is the role of a politician or a religious official, for example, to weigh in or to influence those kinds of decisions.
Nicole Wells Stallworth
We know that when there are barriers put in place for health care, that impacts Black people and people of color and LGBTQ people the most. And so we know that some of wealthy people may have access to go to another state to get an abortion, whereas women who have been marginalized and disenfranchized in the process will not have those opportunities.
Sommer Foster
Nicole Wells Stallworth & Sommer Foster

Nick DeLeeuw grew up as the oldest of ten children, with 61 cousins on his mother’s side. Thirty-six of those cousins were adopted, from a range of circumstances and mostly from Michigan. He explained how his large family’s composition and values informed his strong opposition to abortion and his view of social justice.

Mercy and justice have to be a big part of the conversation as well. They're coequals there. The justice issue here is to protect human life, and mercy is to look out for folks that they can't look out for themselves, but also to look out for mothers.
Nick DeLeeuw
Nick DeLeeuw

Catherine Hadley is currently a married mother to two children. But in 2008, she was an 18-year-old without health insurance or a strong support system when she learned she was pregnant too late to get an abortion. She described how having that baby exacted a grueling physical and psychological toll, grounding her conviction that abortion should be a personal choice.

I think we're asking a lot of people that we don't even really understand when we make comments like, ‘just give the baby up for adoption.’ It's not that simple. Physically, mentally, spiritually, it really isn't that simple.
Catherine Hadley
Catherine Hadley

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Elizabeth Harlow is an Assistant Producer for Stateside.
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