Michigan Pro-Lifers Mobilize Against Amendment Permitting Abortion Until Birth

The state is among several that will face a ballot test in the midterm elections.

Pro-life community gathers outside a Planned Parenthood building praying to end abortion in Ferndale, Michigan.
Pro-life community gathers outside a Planned Parenthood building praying to end abortion in Ferndale, Michigan. (photo: Linda Parton / Shutterstock)

In the post-Roe midterm-election climate, Michigan pro-lifers are facing a particularly intense fight in the form of a ballot measure that would add language to the state constitution allowing abortion through all nine months of pregnancy — thereby eliminating the state’s existing safety restrictions on abortion businesses and doing away with parental-consent requirements not just for abortion, but also sterilization and contraception. 

It’s a critical fight for Catholics and other pro-life advocates in the state. 

The Michigan Catholic Conference wrote that the amendment “would take Michigan far beyond what was allowed for abortion under Roe. In the half-century since Roe, dozens of laws have been passed to regulate abortion. Under this amendment, those protections would be gone, and abortion would be unrestricted and unregulated.”

Proposal 3, appearing on the ballot in November, states that “every individual has a fundamental right to reproductive freedom, which 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.” 

It adds that “the state may regulate the provision of abortion care after fetal viability, provided that in no circumstance shall the state prohibit an abortion that, in the professional judgment of an attending health care professional, is medically indicated to protect the life or physical or mental health of the pregnant individual.” 


Wiping Out Pro-Life Protections 

Erin Mersino, senior counsel at the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, told the Register that the proposal would allow “abortion through all nine months of pregnancy” and that it “obliterates all of the state laws that are presently in place pertaining to abortion; all of the informed-consent laws and parental-consent laws would be invalidated.” 

The language of a constitutional right to abortion for “every individual,” she explained, allows “for minor children to undergo abortion and sterilization without parental consent.”

Another part of the amendment prohibits the state from penalizing, prosecuting or taking “adverse action” against anyone “for aiding or assisting a pregnant individual in exercising their right to reproductive freedom with their voluntary consent.” 

Mersino said that part of the amendment “gets rid of all of the health-and-safety requirements, any of the licensing requirements for abortion clinics,” saying the amendment is “the most extreme measure in all 50 states.”

Steve Aden, chief legal officer and general counsel at Americans United for Life, told the Register that the amendment goes “way beyond what the Supreme Court has allowed, in terms of abortion,” as “even the court in Roe v. Wade said that there was a place for government to come to further its interest in protecting women from bad medicine, from shoddy abortionists, and that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.”

Dr. Michelle Monticello, a Michigan resident who worked as an obstetrician and gynecologist for more than 20 years, volunteers with Right to Life of Michigan. She told the Register that the amendment is alarming because “if you can’t prosecute or penalize an individual for doing an abortion, and if something goes wrong, and there’s long-term consequences, adverse consequences for the patient, what is your recourse?” She said, “This is a big concern for health-and-safety standards in our state.” 

Monticello addressed the use of the term “voluntary consent” in the amendment, which “just means that somebody is requesting a service, and they sign a piece of paper saying, ‘Yes, I want this,’” in contrast to existing state law mandating that “a patient in a medical setting have what’s called informed consent,” which “means that somebody has told the patient about the procedure and about what can go wrong with the procedure and what the consequences of that could be, so a patient can then make a full decision of whether or not they want to undergo the procedure.” 

She said, under the amendment’s language, “the informed-consent law that we have on the books would go away.”

Monticello also found the amendment’s “lack of definition” of the term “health-care professional” concerning, explaining that “current Michigan law requires that it is a physician doing an abortive procedure.” The state currently “lists over 40 different types and classifications of health-care providers,” she pointed out, “so who exactly are they going to allow to oversee these terminations of pregnancy?”


Post-Viability Abortions

Although the amendment allows the state to regulate “abortion care after fetal viability,” it notably includes an exception allowing abortion that, “in the professional judgment of an attending health care professional, is medically indicated to protect the life or physical or mental health of the pregnant individual.” Monticello said “that opens wide the door to define any way that you want to what a physical or mental-health issue is for the woman.” 

She also criticized the amendment’s broad definition of fetal viability as the point at which there is “a significant likelihood of the fetus’ sustained survival outside the uterus without the application of extraordinary medical measures.” She wondered if such measures included medications, IV therapy, oxygen therapy or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit admission. 

She described seeing full-term infants admitted to Intensive Care Units, voicing concerns over setting that as a medical standard in the constitution, since “there is no guarantee at any point in a pregnancy after delivery that the infant is going to immediately thrive on its own.” 

Monticello believes that, in Michigan, “most people don’t want open-ended abortion throughout pregnancy; most people want restrictions placed on that, and they don’t understand that this eliminates any restriction by a health-care professional deeming that there is a medical indication to end the pregnancy throughout the entire gestational period.” 

She concluded of the amendment, “It’s very clear that it will wipe out all the laws we have in place that are there for the protection of Michigan women and children.” 


Educating Voters 

Crystal Kinard, a volunteer who performs outreach to the African American community with Right to Life of Michigan Southeast, told the Register that in her door-knocking to inform people about the extreme nature of the amendment, she has found that people are receptive to concerns about its broad language. 

She feels the urgency of the issue, especially after seeing the pro-life amendment to the state constitution in Kansas fail in August. She had heard that part of the problem was “that the pro-lifers didn’t get out and vote,” saying that “we all have to get out and vote and also talk to people.” 

Kinard has gotten creative in how she starts these conversations and has a “Social Justice Begins in the Womb” hoodie she wears to spark discussions.

In her door-to-door advocacy, she referenced a recent discussion with a young woman who wasn’t even aware of the proposal. During their conversation, Kinard explained that the language of the amendment meant abortion would be available up to birth, saying the woman “was not aware of that, and she was definitely like, ‘Wait a minute, can’t you hear the heartbeat before all this?’” 

Kinard, who is in the Diocese of Lansing, said she felt blessed with the leadership of Bishop Earl Boyea on the issue as he responded to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s promise to “fight like hell” for abortion by urging the faithful to “fight like heaven.” She said she and others spreading the pro-life message have taken “fight like heaven” as their logo. 

“God is in control, but we have to do our work,” she said, adding that those fighting the amendment have Zoom meetings every evening to pray the Rosary. Their Rosaries began when Father Gordon Reigle at St. Thomas Aquinas parish in East Lansing was inspired in prayer to urge the faithful, with the support of Bishop Boyea, to do a 54-day Rosary novena for the defeat of the measure. 

The Michigan Catholic Conference has identified the defeat of what it describes as “the anything goes abortion amendment” as a crucial priority for Catholic voters. 

“As Catholics who stand for the dignity of all human life, from conception to natural death, it is time to come together and defeat this dangerous proposal,” the conference stresses in the extensive online material it has assembled to educate voters about the issue. “The Catholic bishops of Michigan emphatically urge a No vote on Proposal 3 and strongly urge you to tell every person you know that this amendment goes too far on abortion, and to vote No.”


Ballot-Measure Battleground

Depending on how this measure plays out in Michigan, pro-abortion ballot measures may become a significant part of the post-Roe landscape. Both The Washington Post and The New York Times recently noted, in the wake of the failure of the pro-life amendment to the Kansas Constitution, Democrats are looking to embrace the approach of adding pro-abortion measures to the ballot in the hope of increasing the turnout of pro-abortion voters.

Five states have specific abortion-related initiatives on their ballots this year. Pro-abortion measures to be considered in the upcoming midterms include one in California saying the state cannot “deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions” and one in Vermont establishing a right to “personal reproductive autonomy.” 

Other states, like New York, are in the process of approving abortion-related measures to be added to their state constitutions for voters to consider in 2024. There will likely be an abortion amendment on the ballot in South Dakota in 2024 that would establish a right to abortion in the state constitution, with state regulation permitted after the second trimester, but with a broad “health-of-the-mother” exception. 

“You’ve got states like New York, California, Illinois, virtually wiping the books of all abortion regulations,” Aden said. “That’s bad for women’s health, that’s dangerous to women, and it shows utter disrespect for the value of human life.”