Abortion in Michigan
2006: Michigan Constitutional Amendment fails
Michigan Citizens for Life (MCfL) circulated a petition between
2006-JUN-18 and JUL-10.
It has variously been called the "Citizens
for Life" and the "Pre-Natal Initiative" petition. It would
have severely restrict
all abortions in the state by adding two sections to the Michigan Constitution,
to be called the "Personhood Amendment:"
|"The right to due process, whereby no person shall be deprived of life,
liberty, or property without due process of law, guaranteed in Article 1,
Section 17, and the right to equal protection of the law, guaranteed in
Article 1, Section 2, vest at conception."|
|"A 'person', for purposes of the Constitution and laws of the State of
Michigan, exists from the moment of conception."
The public would have voted on these amendments during the 2006-NOV-07 election,
if 317,757 or more valid signatures had been gathered by 2006-JUL-10.
If passed, the amendment would not have immediately ban abortions in the state,
because it would have conflicted with the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision of
1973. Everyone recognizes this fact. However, the main purpose of the
amendment is not to restrict abortions; it is to trigger an inevitable lawsuit
about abortion access that Michigan Citizens for Life hope will be
decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in their favor.
During the year 2004, 26,269 abortions were performed in Michigan. This
dropped to 25,209 in 2005, the lowest level since detailed records were started
about three decades earlier. According to the South Bend Tribune:
The abortion rate -- the number of abortions per 1,000 women between the
ages of 15 to 44 -- was 11.9 last year. That equals the previous low rate
recorded in 1999. 9
If one defines pregnancy as starting
at conception, the actual total would be much larger, because of the the use of:
Contrary to many statements by religious and social conservatives, EC prevents conception by delaying ovulation or directly inhibiting fertilization of the ovum. If an ovum has been fertilized, EC has no effect. They cannot
prevent implantation of the zybote in the inside wall of the uterus.
Existing Michigan anti-abortion law:
Some pro-life advocates suggested that a constitutional amendment is not
needed, because Michigan already has a 1931 law prohibiting abortions which
would automatically come into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturned its
1973 decision, Roe v. Wade.
The law, referred to as the Michigan abortion statute (M.C.L. 75-14)
criminalizes the act of:
"[a]ny person who shall willfully administer to any pregnant woman and
medicine, drug, substance or thing whatever, or shall employ any instrument
or other means whatever, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of
any such woman, unless the same shall have been necessary to preserve the
life of such woman." 3
In 1972, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the abortion statute could
not be used to prosecute a physician:
"...for the mere act of artificially inducing a miscarriage of an
unquickened fetus....the Legislature did not view the induced abortion of an
unquickened fetus as being the destruction of a human life...a licensed
physician who performs a therapeutic abortion upon a woman who is in her
first trimester of pregnancy, if such operation takes place in a hospital,
is not subject to prosecution..." 6
In a footnote, the court wrote that:
"If a licensed physician, who performs a
therapeutic abortion in a licensed hospital upon a woman who is beyond her
first trimester of pregnancy but before the fetus has quickened can show
that said operation involved no significant increase in danger over an
operation performed during the first trimester, he [sic] too would not be
subject to the application of the statute. By the same token, if the
abortion is performed in a clinical setting which provided the same standard
of care as a hospital and involved no significant increase in danger over a
hospital operation, the doctor performing the abortion would not be subject
to the statute." 6
Quickening occurs when the pregnant woman first feels fetal movements. This
usually happens in the fourth or fifth month of gestation. About 90% of all
abortions in the U.S. are performed during the first three months of pregnancy.
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the (in)famous Roe v. Wade case that
women had legal access to abortion for any reason during the first trimester,
and restricted access later in gestation.
Following the Roe v. Wade ruling, the Michigan Supreme Court found a
defendant guilty. He had performed an abortion even though he was an unlicensed
physician. The court noted that the "...central purpose of [Michigan abortion
statute] is clear enough -- to prohibit all abortions except those required to
preserve the health of the mother." However, because of public policy
changes and the Roe v. Wade decision:
"....we construe [the abortion statute] to mean that the prohibition of
this section shall not apply to 'miscarriages' authorized by a pregnant
woman's attending physician in the exercise of his medical judgment; the
effectuation of the decision to abort is also left to the physician's
judgment' however, a physician may not cause a miscarriage after viability
except where necessary, in his [sic] medical judgment to preserve the health
of the mother." 6
One might argue that, if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in the future, that
Michigan's abortion statute would become effective and would permit about 90% of
the abortions currently being performed by physicians -- those which are carried
out before the end of the first trimester.
The Thomas More Law Center suggests that:
"...should the United States Supreme Court eventually overturn Roe v.
Wade and Doe v. Bolton, all things being equal, the legal status of abortion
in Michigan will be far from clear.
On the other hand, the attorneys of Right to Life's have advised the group that
law would make abortion illegal in Michigan should the Supreme
Court reverse Roe v. Wade. Thus, a new law is unnecessary.
There is an interesting aspect of the statute that we have never seen
discussed. It allows abortions before quickening. But quickening is a subjective
experience of the woman. If, say during the fifth month of pregnancy, she seeks
an abortion and maintains that she has never felt the fetus move, how could her
physician be convicted of performing an abortion after quickening? This might
extend the interval of allowable abortions to the end of the second trimester.
Currently, 99% of all abortions are performed before this time.
Appeal to Michigan clergy:
On 2006-JAN-30, Carl Zastrow, Chairperson of Michigan Citizens for Life,
wrote an open letter to all clergy in Michigan. It is based on the belief that
human personhood begins at conception. It said, in part:
"After thirty-three years, after over forty-five million murdered babies
[nationally], it is way past time to stop the killing. Can you imagine the
Americans coming up to the Dachau death camp in 1945 and trying to regulate
it? You do not 'regulate' the murdering of innocent people, whether it be by
gas chambers, machine guns, or surgical suction machines. You shut them
down! Any 'law' that recognizes the 'right' of a mother to murder her son or
daughter is immoral. Any 'law' that allows a mother to murder her baby after
she does A, B, or C, is not good enough!..."
"We praise God for educational and mercy ministries like 'post-abortion'
counseling and pregnancy resource centers. We praise God for the peaceful
Rescue movement and street ministries. We praise God for shepherds who
compassionately bring wounded sheep to the Savior for repentance,
forgiveness, and healing. A truly compassionate shepherd not only patches up
ravaged sheep, but he protects sheep from the wolves in the first place.
Yes! He takes his staff and beats the wolves to jelly! The demonic spirit of
murder is like a wolf that kills almost one-third of American children.
Shepherds, it is time for us to arise together and peacefully stop the
slaughtering, to prevent the wolves from killing the lambs! Being pro-life
doesn't save any babies - acting pro-life does...."
"PRAY against the spirit of murder. Pray against the lies that
call murder, a 'choice,' or 'a surgical procedure,' and 'removal of
pregnancy tissue.' Pray against the apathy that allows over 4,000 children
each day to be slaughtered [in the U.S.]."
Activities of the Thomas More Law Center
The Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, MI, a conservative Christian
legal advocacy group, geared up to handle the inevitable court battles that
this amendment would have triggered, if it were implemented.
Reactions to the petition:
|Republican State Committee: The Michigan Republican State Committee
unanimously passed a resolution supporting the Michigan Citizens for Life
petition drive. It said:
"In conjunction with the Republican National
Committee Platform passed in 2004, the Michigan Republican Party expresses
support for the concept that life [of a human person] begins at conception and we encourage our
members to consider supporting the Michigan Citizens for Life petition initiative."
Cal Zastrow, chairperson of MCfL said on 2006-APR-12 that the resolution has helped the petition drive. He said:
"It has tremendous impact. The Republican Party is staying true to its
|Troy-Clawson Republican Forum: The forum supports the petition. Treasurer Eileen Kruper stated:|
"From the moment of conception, the tiny human is a self-contained
unit, needing only shelter, food and oxygen to continue developing,
just like all the rest of humanity. T.C.R.F. supports this petition
drive because we need to finally recognize this scientific fact and
protect the most innocent among us -- the child in the womb."
|Democrats: The Michigan Democratic Party criticized the GOP resolution and the
petition, noting that women who have abortions even in
cases of rape or to protect their own lives would become criminals. Mark
Brewer, state chairperson of the Democratic Party said that the resolution moves the state Republican Party
"even farther out of the Michigan mainstream."
|American Civil Liberties Union: The ACLU has stated that it will file a lawsuit to block the amendment if voters pass it.
|Other anti-abortion groups:
|Right to Life of Michigan is perhaps the best known group
that is opposed to abortion access in the state. They
believe that the amendment is technically flawed, and that it is unneeded because Michigan already has a law in place that would ban abortions in the
state if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade in the future. 4 The Detroit News noted
"...the traditional heavyweights of the anti-abortion core in this
state -- Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic
Conference -- are officially sitting this one out. And some say the
two are working against it, behind the scenes.
" 'It's never healthy for the movement when pro-life groups divide
over anything,' said Judie Brown, president of American Life League, a
national anti-abortion organization headquartered in Washington, DC.
Brown supports the Michigan ballot issue. 8
Barbara Listing, president of Right to Life of Michigan noted that
the constitutional amendment is silent on issues such as in-vitro
fertilization, abortions to save the mother's life, and cloning. That leaves
it open to legal entanglements, she said. 8
It also would appear to criminalize emergency contraception.
|Michigan Catholic Conference: Paul Long, the group's vice president for public policy, said:
"The Catholic Church stands by its belief that life begins at
conception. And while that is the teaching of the church, there is a
difference between that and whether this petition drive as written and
put forward is the right and proper thing to do at this time."
|The public: A EPIC/MRA public opinion poll in early 2006-JUN
showed that 47% favored the amendment; 42% are opposed.
Michigan Citizens for Life allegedly collected fewer than 300,000 signatures,
compared to the 317,757 needed to place the constitutional amendment on the
2006-NOV ballot. Their leader, Cal Zastrow, planned to continue its effort,
perhaps initiating a new petition in the future, or persuading the Legislature to
sponsor the constitutional amendment. The latter would require a two-thirds
affirmative vote by both the House and Senate.
Related essays on this web site:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Petition Language," Michigan Citizens for Life, at:
- "An open letter to Christian shepherds." Michigan Citizens for Life, at:
- "Memorandum of Law," Thomas More Law Center, 2006-MAY-03, at:
- Tim Martin, "Anti-abortion petition drive supported by GOP committee," The Associated Press, 2006-APR-12, at:
- News release, Troy-Clawson Republican Forum, 2006-JUN-13, at:
- "People v. Nixon," 42 Mich App. 332 (1972).
- "People v. Bricker," 389 Mich. 534 (1973).
- Mark Hornbeck, "Abortion foes split over ballot," Detroit News, 2006-MAY-30, at:
- "Anti-abortion petition falls short in Michigan. Group wanted to get
enough signatures to put issue on ballot," South Bend Tribune, 2006-JUL-11,
Copyright � 2006 & 2007 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally posted: 2006-JUN-18
Latest update: 2007-DEC-05
Author: B.A. Robinson