“The words ‘Roe overturned’ are no longer theoretical,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “I want every Michigander to know—no matter what happens in DC, I’m going to fight like hell to protect access to safe, legal abortion in Michigan.”
MICHIGAN—On Monday night, Politico broke the news that the conservative-majority US Supreme Court voted to strike down Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that protects a person’s right to have an abortion.
In a leaked draft of the Feb. 10 “Opinion of the Court,” Justice Samuel Alito writes: “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision….”
Planned Parenthood v. Casey is a 1992 decision that upheld and reinforced the 1973 Roe decision.
If the draft becomes official and Roe is overturned, the immediate effect would be an end to federal protections of abortion rights. State abortion laws in place prior to Roe would be reinstated, and future abortion rights laws would be decided by state governments.
“The words ‘Roe overturned’ are no longer theoretical,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a statement on Tuesday. “I want every Michigander to know—no matter what happens in DC, I’m going to fight like hell to protect access to safe, legal abortion in Michigan.”
Here are six things you need to know right now.
1. Abortion is still legal in Michigan and across the country.
People with appointments should still go to them. The leaked document is not an official decision and has not gone into effect. (In fact, a final ruling isn’t expected until next month.)
2. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion access would become uncertain in Michigan.
According to a 2019 study, Michigan would be the second most-impacted state in the nation following a change to Roe.
Before Roe v. Wade, a 1931 law criminalized abortions in Michigan without exceptions for rape or incest. When the US Supreme Court decided on Roe in 1973, their verdict rendered Michigan’s 1931 ban unconstitutional and abortion in Michigan became legal. If the leaked Supreme Court draft becomes official, Michigan’s 1931 criminalization would immediately be reinstated.
3. Millions of women in Michigan and across the country would be affected
There are approximately 2.2 million women of reproductive age in Michigan who would lose their right to make decisions for their own bodies—regardless of rape, incest, or other sexual violence. Those seeking safe abortions would need to travel to one of the 21 states where abortion would remain legal—meaning people with limited incomes, a lack of child care or flexible work schedules, and those needing increased privacy or protection (due to domestic violence or similarly threatening situations), would essentially lose any access to legal clinics.
“I know for a fact when you make abortion illegal, it does not stop abortion from happening,” said Ashia George, a labor, delivery, and abortion-care nurse from Southeast Michigan. “I worry about the people who will try to do it themselves and maybe are not doing it in a safe manner—they could get injured or die.”
“However we personally feel about abortion, a woman’s health, not politics, should drive important medical decisions,” said Whitmer. “We must trust women—our family, neighbors, and friends—to make decisions that are best for them about their bodies and lives.”
4. Gov. Whitmer has vowed to continue fighting to protect legal abortion in the Michigan Constitution.
Last month, Whitmer filed a lawsuit asking the Michigan Supreme Court to stop enforcement of the 1931 Michigan abortion ban—considered to be one of the harshest in the country—and to recognize a constitutional right to an abortion under the Due Process Clause of the Michigan Constitution. The Due Process Clause provides a right to privacy and bodily autonomy.
Whitmer’s lawsuit further argues that the 1931 ban violates Michigan’s Equal Protection Clause, denying Michigan women equal rights based on outdated notions concerning the proper role for women in society. Many of the state’s county prosecutors have supported the governor’s efforts.
“In light of the US Supreme Court’s leaked majority opinion overturning the 49-year-old precedent in Roe v. Wade, my lawsuit to protect the right to legal abortion in Michigan is more critical than ever,” Whitmer said.
In an April 12 interview with The ‘Gander, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said that going through the state Supreme Court is Michigan’s best way to brace for the fallout of a Roe reversal.
“That is why were are taking this affirmative step, because we believe that women in Michigan have an affirmative right to choice, to privacy, and to an abortion if they decide it makes sense for them,” he said.
The case is currently pending with Michigan’s seven-member Supreme Court.
5. A majority of Michiganders support Roe.
In a January 2022 WDIV/Detroit News poll, 67% of Michiganders support Roe, and 66% support repealing Michigan’s 1931 trigger ban on abortion. More than 77% believe abortion should be a woman’s decision.
In an April 2022 Courier Newsroom/Data for Progress poll, only 28% of respondents said the government should be able to make decisions about reproductive rights.
In a 2021 Washington Post-ABC poll, 75% of respondents said decisions on abortion should be left to a woman and her doctor—including 95% of Democrats, 81% of Independents, and 53% of Republicans. The poll also found that support for overturning Roe “peaks among White evangelical Protestants, 58% of whom say the court should overturn the precedent.” The report further noted that 62% of Catholics say Roe should not be overturned.
6. There are several ways you can help.
Sign the Reproductive Freedom for All petition. It’s a campaign to get the Right to Reproductive Freedom ballot initiative in the Nov. 2022 elections (see below).
Vote this November. The Right to Reproductive Freedom ballot initiative would amend the Michigan constitution, guaranteeing the right to seek an abortion before fetal viability. If it passes, it will override the 1931 ban. As of now, the campaign (Reproductive Freedom for All) is collecting signatures to qualify to be placed on the ballot. Once it has 425,059 signatures, it will be placed on the November 2022 ballot for voters to decide its fate. If at least 51% of voters support its passage, the amendment will be added to the state constitution.
Promote access to abortions in Michigan through organizations like the Reclaim Project and the Fountain Street Church Choice Fund.Speak up about the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA). In February 2022, the US Senate voted on the WHPA, which would protect abortion access nationwide by “creating a statutory right for health care providers to provide, and a corresponding right for their patients to receive, abortion care—free from restrictions and bans,” according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. The bill is supported by a majority of voters in the US, and was passed by the US House of Representatives in September 2021. However, it did not receive the 60 Senate votes necessary to overcome the filibuster.