How Michigan’s Proposal 3 Allows Child Sterilization Without Parental Consent

COMMENTARY: Along with mandating abortion on demand, the state’s so-called ‘Reproductive Freedom for All’ initiative extends even further.

Proposal 3 in Michigan is also known by its proponents as the ‘Reproductive Freedom for All’ initiative.
Proposal 3 in Michigan is also known by its proponents as the ‘Reproductive Freedom for All’ initiative. (photo: ADragan / Shutterstock)

Proposal 3 in Michigan will give minor children the constitutional right to pursue procedures intended to change their physical sexual characteristics and sterilize themselves as a result, and parents would have no right to consent or be informed of it.

There is a lot to unpack there, and the average reader may have an interest in a broader explanation. But the plain language of the proposed constitutional amendment in Michigan and how it can be applied demonstrate that such a scenario is entirely within the realm of possibility if voters approve this measure Nov. 8.

Proposal 3 is billed by its supporters as the “Reproductive Freedom for All” initiative. Voters may believe this is just an abortion proposal, and abortion is included as part of “the fundamental right to reproductive freedom” established in the amendment. But there's more to it.

The amendment text goes on to define what is included in that right: The fundamental right to reproductive freedom, it says, “entails the right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy, including but not limited to prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care.”

Included in that list of “matters related to pregnancy” is sterilization. When people think of sterilization, they may think of adults undergoing vasectomies or hysterectomies. And certainly, sterilization is a matter related to pregnancy, in that sterilization eliminates the possibility of pregnancy.

The amendment states that “every individual has a fundamental right to reproductive freedom.” Numerous legal experts have pointed out that the term “individual” is not defined or limited by age in this language, meaning children are also given this right to reproductive freedom.

Elsewhere in the amendment, the language stipulates the right to reproductive freedom cannot be “denied, burdened, nor infringed upon unless justified by a compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive means.”

Legal experts refer to this language as the strict-scrutiny test, and such a standard is a tough one for any state law affecting a constitutional right to be upheld if it were challenged in court. 

However, Proposal 3 takes the strict-scrutiny standard even further by narrowing the definition of what a “compelling state interest” can be.

According to the language, a state interest is only compelling if “it is for the limited purpose of protecting the health of an individual seeking care, consistent with accepted clinical standards of practice and evidence-based medicine, and does not infringe on that individual’s autonomous decision-making.”

The language suggests that all three prongs listed in the definition must be met for a state interest — in other words, a law or regulation — to be considered compelling, and thus, valid. 

But the last point is especially problematic: A law could not “infringe on that individual's autonomous decision-making.” On its face, no regulation or restriction would pass this test, given the fact that essentially any enacted regulation or restriction affects a person's decision-making.

Putting this all together, here's what it means.

Proposal 3 creates a constitutional right to reproductive freedom, which specifically includes sterilization. The right is not limited to just adults, as every individual is given these rights, which includes minor children

Further, no state law could interfere with those constitutionally protected reproductive rights if it affects a person's decision-making. That would include, for example, any sort of requirement that parents give consent for these decisions, because again, these constitutional rights are also given to children who enjoy protection from any regulations that would infringe on their decision-making.

Many therapies and treatments available to people suffering from gender dysphoria inherently involve sterilization. It should be apparent that the removal of healthy reproductive organs in a sexual-reassignment surgery renders a person sterile just like a vasectomy or hysterectomy would do. The intention for the procedures may be different, but the sterilization outcome is the same. 

And treatments like cross-sex hormones and puberty-blocking drugs, at the very least, are believed to have a temporary sterilizing effect on those who take them, although there is debate about whether it can be reversed.

We know that in our culture today, there is a growing movement among people suffering from gender dysphoria who seek to change their physical sex to match what they believe is their internal gender. And we know these conversations and actions around “transitioning” are happening at younger and younger ages. One only needs to follow the news headlines about how these gender-identity issues are handled in public schools, for example.

With that in mind, it is not unreasonable to think that a teenager who is struggling with his or her gender identity would seek these procedures and do so without his or her parents' knowledge or permission. Under Proposal 3, that teenager would be allowed to do so without his or her parents' knowledge or consent, for the reasons stated above: It would be that teenager's constitutional right, and no state law could be implemented to curb that right if it interferes with the teenager's decision-making.

Further, consider that Planned Parenthood, the major backer behind Proposal 3, has also now expanded its business practices into providing “gender-affirming hormone therapy” at its facilities, including in Michigan.

If that fact does not make the profit factor in this apparent, there is more light being shed on how “gender-affirming care” is becoming a big business opportunity for those willing to cash in.

This is what the voters of Michigan are being asked to approve: Not only an expansive right to unrestricted abortion, but also a right for children to attempt to change their gender without parental consent and sterilize themselves.

On top of the understandable concern about the growing number of children seeking these procedures intended to change their physical gender characteristics, this amendment would seek to remove parents' rights to be informed of and involved in these decisions their children may be considering.

As difficult as these situations may be, parents must still have the right to look out for the best interests of their children. Proposal 3 would make it so that parents are sidelined in favor of a blanket granting of the right to “reproductive freedom for all” people — including children. 

This is why we can say Proposal 3 is dangerous, extreme and misleading and why voters must reject this proposed amendment to the Michigan Constitution this November, to avoid locking this dangerous consequence of “reproductive freedom” into the state's governing document forever.

Jenny Ingles is the director of Fertility and Life Ministries for the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan.