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Opinion – Reflecting on abortion rights in Michigan two years after the fall of Roe v. Wade

Opinion – Reflecting on abortion rights in Michigan two years after the fall of Roe v. Wade

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 24: People protest in response to the Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022 in Washington, DC. The Court's decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health overturns the landmark 50-year-old Roe v Wade case and erases a federal right to an abortion. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

By Amanda Mazur

June 21, 2024

In this op-ed, Amanda Mazur with Northwest Michigan for Reproductive Freedom reflects on the state of abortion rights and accessibility in Michigan two years after the overturning of Roe v. Wade

June 24th marks the second anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case that overturned Roe v. Wade. This prompts reflection on Michigan’s progress in reclaiming abortion rights and the critical work that remains in the fight for reproductive freedom.

Two years ago, I was part of a motivated team of hundreds of volunteers across the state working to collect signatures to get Proposal 3, the Michigan abortion rights referendum, on the ballot. I had also recently formed a grassroots advocacy organization with other passionate women, Northwest Michigan for Reproductive Freedom, focused on addressing stigma and standing up for abortion access. Like many in advocacy, I was drawn to it because of my own personal experience. In 2017, my very wanted pregnancy became a crisis pregnancy when I was given a devastating prognosis at 20 weeks. I experienced firsthand the struggle to access care, and this was when Roe v. Wade was still in effect.

After the Supreme Court leak of the Dobbs decision in early May 2022, the situation shifted. We were no longer seeking out people to sign a petition—they were seeking us out. People from all walks of life and across the cultural and political spectrum were suddenly moved to take action after the long-held personal freedoms established by Roe v. Wade were stripped away.

Flash forward to election day 2022, and Michigan voters came out in force to reaffirm their support for reproductive freedom. They did this not only by voting yes on Proposal 3, but by selecting pro-choice candidates up and down the ballot. For the first time in nearly 40 years, Michigan had a majority in all three branches of government ready to support the will of the people by protecting abortion rights. Legislators and advocates alike were ready to get right to work, starting by striking the archaic 1931 abortion law from our books and bringing forth a package of bills known as the Reproductive Health Act (RHA).

Where Michigan stands on reproductive rights today

Today, Michigan is one of a handful of states in which the right to abortion is protected in the state constitution. Thanks to the RHA, passed in 2023, we have also come a long way in ensuring that abortion is not only legal but more accessible. As of this year, women are no longer required to have a special insurance rider to cover the cost of abortion care, politically motivated TRAP laws designed to shutter clinics are no longer in effect, and university students have access to accurate reproductive health information.

Advocates have much to celebrate, yet we recognize that significant work remains in our state. Two key elements of the RHA that would have addressed cumbersome regulations making abortion care prohibitive to the most marginalized among us were stripped out of the package to appease a single legislator who was unable to reject harmful stigma. This means that patients are still required to undergo a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before getting an abortion, and Medicaid is still banned from covering the cost of abortion care in most situations.

Furthermore, legality does not equal accessibility, and for many rural and economically disadvantaged residents, abortion care is still out of reach. For example, community members within the service area of Northwest Michigan for Reproductive Freedom must travel approximately 100 miles or more to reach the nearest clinic. The cost of travel, struggle to find childcare, and hardship of taking time off work create many hurdles that not all are able to overcome. Add to that the current stress on the system to accommodate the post-Dobbs influx of out-of-state patients forced to travel even farther from home, and one can easily see this is not sustainable.

The looming threat of a national abortion ban

In Michigan, abortion rights advocates remain as committed as ever to ensuring progress continues. However, this commitment is challenged by many conservative politicians who are interested in pursuing abortion bans at the federal level. The presumed Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, has himself expressed openness to possible federal restrictions, and said he would allow states to closely track women’s pregnancies and prosecute those found to be in violation of abortion bans.

This means that even here in Michigan, with our newly enshrined right to reproductive freedom, we risk losing it all—again—as federal law takes precedence over state law.

What you can do to make a difference

As someone who has been involved in the fight at some level for the past few years, I know the continued assault on abortion rights is both exhausting and discouraging. Yet there is too much at stake to give up now. 

Here are a few tangible things you can do to make a meaningful impact:

  • Be considerate of how you talk about abortion. Understand the facts and don’t use stigmatizing language pushed by anti-abortion groups. We all have someone in our lives who has had an abortion whether we know it or not.
  • Donate to an abortion fund. These funds provide patients with material and logistical support and have been working overtime since the Dobbs decision.
  • Advocate for abortion access at the local level. We need more clinics providing a full range of reproductive care in Michigan, especially in the northern areas. Encourage your local leaders at the county or city level to be receptive to this.
  • Make a plan to vote and motivate others to do so. Abortion rights are on the ballot in the 2024 election.

We know that the majority of people support the right to abortion. This has been demonstrated in every election since the overturn of Roe, across red and blue states alike. When we stand up and refuse to be silenced, we drive meaningful change. The power of collective action is undeniable, and together, we can continue to protect and advance reproductive freedom.

Related – Whitmer: Reproductive rights still ‘in jeopardy’ in Michigan

Author

  • Amanda Mazur

    Amanda Mazur is an abortion rights advocate and storyteller, and Vice President of Northwest Michigan for Reproductive Freedom, an advocacy group focused on abortion access and addressing stigma.

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