Why a Dismemberment Abortion Ban?

By Right to Life of Michigan

Since New York’s Legislature cheered legislation endorsing abortion-on-demand through all nine months of pregnancy, the prolife movement has been on the move. Many people who considered themselves prolife but didn’t commit themselves to regular efforts to end abortion have suddenly been awakened, angered, and activated.

In recent years, the prolife movement has been very successful pursuing prolife legislation on the state level. In just the last few months, that activity has become even more energized. Not only are more people getting involved, but with the replacement of pro-abortion U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Roe v. Wade faces its first real danger in a generation.

Many people new to the movement have seen prolife legislation being passed in other states and are wondering what Michigan will do as a response to New York and other states supporting abortion-on-demand. In Michigan, our focus will be a ban on the dismemberment abortion procedure (also called a D&E abortion).

Sadly, in Michigan, this prolife crescendo came at a bad time. Michigan went from having an indifferent governor in Rick Snyder to now having an actively pro-abortion governor in Gretchen Whitmer. The silver lining is Michigan voters returned prolife majorities to the state legislature.

Right to Life of Michigan will work to advance all legislation possible, but in light of this split in Michigan government, there’s only a few prolife bills likely to be supported by both the Legislature and Governor Whitmer. These bills probably won’t deal directly with abortion, unless Governor Whitmer has a miraculous change of heart.

However, Michigan’s Constitution has a provision that doesn’t require miracles for prolife bills to become laws in this situation—all it requires is hard work, and tons of it. Citizens can initiate legislation directly to the Legislature by collecting a large number of signatures. If the Michigan House and Senate approve the legislation, it becomes law without any input from the governor.

Right to Life of Michigan and our dozens of local affiliates have been very successful in the past using these petition drives, most recently in 2013. We’ve used it to pass legislation to require parental consent for minor teens seeking abortions, ban partial birth abortion, and prevent insurance from becoming part of every health insurance plan. Our 1987 petition drive to end Medicaid-funded abortions in Michigan has saved an estimated 228,917 lives so far!

We still want to provide Governor Whitmer with opportunities to do the right thing and send her prolife bills. However, the most likely scenario is that any big, impactful prolife bills in the next two years will require prolifers to engage in a gigantic grassroots effort to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures in the span of several weeks. Such an effort requires a laser-like focus, and for the next two years the focus of Right to Life of Michigan and our affiliates is on a bill to ban dismemberment abortion.

Why a dismemberment ban? Several other states have advanced different pieces of big, impactful prolife legislation: bans on abortion after 20 weeks, heartbeat bans, bans on sex-selection abortion, banning abortions targeting children with disabilities, and some have passed dismemberment bans. Some have passed a combination of two or more of these bills.

Michigan is unique. Michigan has an important Michigan Supreme Court precedent from 1973, shortly after Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton were decided. Michigan law has banned abortion except to save the life of the mother since 1846. After Roe was decided in 1973, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in People v. Bricker that Roe and Doe are only blocking enforcement of Michigan’s law; Michigan’s law was not repealed. Our abortion ban is in legal effect, but only partially-enforceable at the moment.

Our situation is truly unique. The day Roe v. Wade is overturned, our law has an opportunity to go back into effect. So, Michigan law already bans abortions after 20 weeks, or after a heartbeat is detected, or abortion targeted at a specific demographic. For any of those laws to go into effect, Roe likely needs to be completely overturned; when Roe is overturned, any of those laws would become legally pointless in Michigan since our ban covers them anyway. Other states are not so lucky; very few will have the opportunity to immediately end abortion after Roe goes.

A ban on dismemberment abortion is different from those other laws in two important ways. It too would be legally pointless if Roe v. Wade is overturned and our ban is restored to full effect, but what if Roe is not overturned completely? Some speculate that the current conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court will dismantle Roe v. Wade piece by piece over the course of years rather than consigning it directly to the ash heap of history in which it belongs.

In his opinion upholding a ban on partial-birth abortion, pro-abortion Justice Anthony Kennedy specifically mentioned dismemberment abortion as a similarly violent procedure. His opinion laid a clear legal path forward, meaning a dismemberment abortion ban is the most likely piece of big prolife legislation to be upheld. It’s the most likely next step of the U.S. Supreme Court. Of course, the U.S. Supreme Court can also use a dismemberment ban to completely overturn Roe v. Wade if they wish.

We’re happy that other states with prolife governors and state legislatures are pursuing those other bills if they can’t yet pass a 100% prolife ban like Michigan has. However, we only have the opportunity to get one big, impactful bill done before 2020, so Michigan should focus our time on a bill that has the most chance of actually being legally enforceable and thus actually saving lives.

Those bills in other states do have important educational messages that focus people on the humanity of the child in the womb. Our dismemberment abortion ban also has a vital educational message, one that focuses people on the violent nature of abortion. It’s easier for the prolife movement to inform people about fetal development facts, but extremely more difficult to effectively educate people about the inherent violence of abortion procedures. By pursuing a dismemberment ban, we’re forcing the media and our opponents to confront the issue. It gives us the opportunity to use excellent resources to help people understand how abortion works.

The greatest gain in prolife opinion in recent decades was because of partial-birth abortion bans. Our dismemberment abortion ban mirrors legislation to ban partial-birth abortions (in fact, we’re just amending our state’s partial-birth ban by adding dismemberment abortions to it). It also will mirror the educational effort to help people understand that abortion takes the life of a unique human being in horrifically barbaric fashion. It will hopefully mirror the large prolife shift in public opinion.

For the foreseeable future, we are focused on working through the legislative process on our dismemberment abortion ban to give Governor Whitmer a chance to enact it. Whether or not we have to collect several hundred thousand signatures to help pass the ban, you have a wonderful grassroots opportunity here. Please use this opportunity to focus your efforts on informing your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers and others about the violence of dismemberment abortion.

For details as we work through this process and for news and resources to help you in your personal educational grassroots campaign, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, our bi-weekly podcast, or sign-up for our weekly e-mail on RTL.org. Now is the time to inform your fellow citizens so that Michigan never becomes New York.