Jumbotron set to bring anti-abortion message to EMU ahead of election

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

An anti-abortion group is bringing its viewpoint to Eastern Michigan University's campus this week with a large-screen television less than two months before Michigan voters cast ballots on an abortion rights ballot measure.

Created Equal plans to broadcast its message and images of abortion procedures and aborted fetuses on an 8-by-12-foot Jumbotron near the lawn of EMU's Pray-Harrold building, said Mark Harrington, president of the Columbus, Ohio-based nonprofit.

The organization has visited EMU and other college campuses since it was formed in 2011. But Harrington said now is a good time to promote anti-abortion values since this past week Michigan's high court ordered on the Nov. 8 ballot an effort to enshrine abortion rights in the Michigan Constitution.

"We are trying stimulate informed debate on abortion," Harrington said. “We go to campuses because we believe that debate is typically one-sided. So we are offering an alternative view, the pro-life view, which is typically not the one held by faculty and others. It is the marketplace of ideas, it’s where it should be debated.”

Members of Created Equal are scheduled to speak from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

A Detroit News-WDIV-TV (Channel 4) poll released last week found that abortion rights and women's rights had surpassed inflation as the issue that would most motivate respondents to vote in the November election.

More: Strong support for abortion rights, parental consent in Michigan, poll finds

The abortion-rights proposal, which will be called Prop 3, seeks to enshrine reproductive rights — including the right to abortion, pregnancy, miscarriage and sterilization decisions — into the state constitution. It would also nullify Michigan's 1931 abortion law, which bans abortion in all cases except when it is performed to save the life of the mother.

Harrington said in a statement that "if this passes, it will be unconstitutional for Michiganders to ever restrict or regulate abortion.” John Bursch, an attorney for the Michigan Catholic Conference and Right to Life of Michigan, has argued there are loopholes in the proposed constitutional amendment that would repeal existing laws and regulations on abortion, including the requirement of parental consent for a minor child to have an abortion.

But Steve Liedel, a lawyer for the Reproductive Freedom for All ballot committee, has argued that "there's nothing in the language" of the abortion rights measure "that does anything to indicate that it affects other laws or repeals other laws."

MORE: Will abortion rights amendment nix Michigan's parental consent law? It's complicated

Enforcement of the law remains blocked as litigants battle in court over whether there is already a right to abortion in the state constitution.

The injunction, which was issued before the U.S. Supreme Court in June overruled the Roe v. Wade decision, was made permanent last week by Michigan Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher, who is a former Planned Parenthood lawyer who continues to donate money to the group.

MoreJudge sets up legal fight, issues permanent injunction blocking Michigan's abortion ban

EMU spokesman Walter Kraft said Created Equal's visit is part of the group's outreach efforts and it has visited the campus of EMU and other universities in the past.

"While the content is graphic and is disturbing to many people," Kraft said, "the planned activity is protected by the First Amendment."

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com