As abortion rights supporters rallied across the country Tuesday, a new group emerged in Michigan with a plan to put an “arrow in the heart of Roe v. Wade.”
Calling itself the Michigan Heartbeat Coalition, it filed with the state to circulate a citizens’ initiative petition to prohibit abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected.
The coalition argued that the more states that adopt a heartbeat bill, the “more quickly and certainly” the court ruling permitting the use of abortions would be overturned.
Right to Life of Michigan, which filed paperwork to run a petition drive to outlaw dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions last week, is not affiliated with the coalition.
Further, Right to Life’s legislative director, Genevieve Marnon, said what the new coalition is pushing is an unnecessary duplication of an abortion ban already on the books in Michigan but deactivated by Roe. Marnon added that the coalition’s initiative is good policy but the wrong state to push it in.
Court cases from other states are already making their way to the U.S. Supreme Court that could overturn Roe v. Wade.
The new coalition addressed this criticism in its press release, stating that its petition includes a “savings clause” in its language to protect the state’s existing abortion ban, and said its language includes this: “Nothing in this act shall be construed as authorizing any abortion that is illegal under any other provision of state law.”
Marnon called the timing of the coalition’s announcement “unfortunate” and that it doesn’t help with Right to Life’s plans to circulate its petitions to get the D&E abortion ban approved.
Asked if Right to Life tried to head off the coalition’s efforts, Marnon said there was a discussion with the group, including with Mark Gurley, who is listed as a contact on a press release. Gurley is a former grassroots vice chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. He could not be immediately reached for comment.
“MHC honors Right to Life of Michigan’s effort for the past 46 years,” the coalition’s press release stated. “Now is the time to strike while the iron is hot. Why regulate abortion when we can end it? MHC calls on all pro-life organizations in Michigan to join in this effort and encourages every pro-life group, church and individual to join in this petition drive.”
Lori Carpentier, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, said in a statement today, “A ban is a ban is a ban. All these bills and all these ballot initiatives really have two goals: to ban abortion in Michigan and make sure the people of Michigan — who they know don’t support this — don’t get a say.
“It’s not about a specific procedure or a specific procedure — it is about banning all abortion — no matter why, no matter when. These bans are harmful, unconstitutional, and deeply unpopular.”
The new proposal complicates issues for Right to Life in that voters may be confused with two anti-abortion petitions’ being circulated. Voters who believe they have already signed one won’t sign the second, thinking it’s the same thing.
The other problem is of voters accidentally signing petitions twice, forgetting which one they signed. Under state law, multiple signatures of the same name on a petition must be thrown out.
Scaring away potential signers is also not what Right to Life wants. Outside of putting a D&E measure in front of Republican lawmakers, who undoubtedly would support it (even if the courts may not), the signature gathering effort is a fine way for Right to Life to build its list of potential dues-paying members and anti-abortion activists that it can later sell to pro-Life candidates.
Right to Life hasn’t run a successful ballot drive since 2003 with the partial-birth abortion ban.
Right to Life sees a D&E ban as having an immediate impact in curtailing abortions in Michigan while reigniting the vivid “ripping off arms and legs” imagery they are using for a procedure they are calling “dismemberment abortion.”
D&E abortions are typically performed in the second trimester. It’s considered the safest procedure for women because it’s less likely to cause internal damage or hurt chances for future pregnancies.
(Kyle Melinn, of the Capitol news service MIRS, is at email@example.com.)