LANSING – A year after the passing of Proposition 3, which made abortion a constitutional right in Michigan, democrats in the state House and Senate have passed a sweeping slate of bills to legalize abortion at every stage of pregnancy, in many cases up to the moment of birth – and to enable the state funding of abortion services. These bills have all passed and Governor Whitmer has already indicated that she will sign them as they are aligned with the priorities she laid out in her State of the State address this year.
Seven senate bills and 11 house bills were consolidated and passed to address abortion, and according to Senator Kevin Daley, senate democrats used an unusual, expedited process to accelerate the passage of these bills with minimal to no bipartisan debate. These bills mirror much of the language of Proposition 3, creating a layer of state laws on top of the constitutional amendment of Prop 3, which will make it extremely difficult to ever be repealed.
Senator Daley said, “These bills go far beyond Proposal 3, making Michigan one of the most radically pro-abortion states in America. I was proud to vote against the legislation and I hope to continue fighting for the pro-life agenda.”
The soon-to-be laws redefine abortion legally to make it a legal, constitutional right. They redefine medical viability to mean any child that is developed beyond the need for any form of incubation and free of medical disabilities, which means that even a child at 40 weeks of development that has any form of medical disability could be terminated. The bills further allow for civil and criminal punishment for anyone who attempts to “deny, burden, or infringe upon” someone’s right to abortion, and reverses previous laws that currently prohibit the use of tax dollars to fund abortion.
Many pro-life legal advocates are especially concerned with House Bill 4949 establishing abortion as a “fundamental right to reproductive freedom,” which “shall not be denied, burdened, or infringed upon” and anyone who believes their right to reproductive freedom is being denied, burdened or infringed upon can seek civil penalties. Further, it specifically states that the “attorney general may also bring an action to enforce the act for the same relief and a court must award reasonable attorney fees and costs to a plaintiff who prevails in any action brought under the act.”
According to Genevieve Marnon, Legislative Director at Right To Life Michigan, one clearly conceivable outcome of this legislation is that churches and individuals who protest, pray, and attempt to persuade pregnant mothers not to abort their babies in front of abortion clinics could be construed to be placing a “burden” against pregnant mothers’ right to abortion. They could likely face civil litigation from Planned Parenthood and others. Even if these lawsuits fail on First Amendment grounds the defendants will still face the burden of legal defense against these suits.
For this reason and others, Right To Life Michigan, together with a large group of plaintiffs including state legislators, doctors, and religious groups filed a lawsuit in federal court against Governor Whitmer, Secretary of State Benson, and Attorney General Nessel claiming that Proposition 3 and these new laws are unconstitutional.
The use of tax dollars to fund abortion, an issue that until the very recent past had wide bipartisan opposition, is also directly addressed in two bills about to become law. SB 478 repeals provisions of the Social Welfare Act that prohibits the use of public funds through social welfare programs to pay for abortions and SB 479 enables social welfare programs to pay for abortions with state funds.
Further provisions of the bills that have passed include deregulation of abortion clinics to reduce and in cases eliminate licensing and inspections of clinics. This measure, in particular, is extremely unpopular among all Michiganders. Right To Life Michigan published a 3rd party poll that shows 95% of all Michiganders believe abortion clinics should be held to the same safety standards as other medical clinics.