Editorial: Wait for new Roe ruling before deciding abortion
Even before one fight to restrict abortion in Michigan has been resolved, activists are pushing another, more severe limit that clearly runs afoul of the guidelines of the Roe v. Wade decision.
Last week, the Michigan House and Senate passed separate bills to outlaw a procedure commonly used in second-term abortions. The technique, which dismembers a fetus before removing it from the womb, was used in nearly 1,800 abortions in the state last year.
The legislation would not outlaw second term abortions, but would force doctors to use a different procedure that mimics a miscarriage.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has vowed to veto the bill, if a reconciled version makes it to her desk.
That’s brought the promise of a citizens initiative from Right to Life of Michigan. Under state law, backers of a bill can collect 340,000 valid petition signatures to force action by the Legislature. If the proposal is approved by lawmakers, it becomes law without the governor’s signature. If the Legislature doesn’t approve, it goes to the ballot for voters to decide.
This week, the group Michigan Heartbeat Coalition announced plans for a second citizen’s initiative to ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Several states have passed fetal heartbeat laws, most of which have been blocked by the courts because they too strictly limit a woman’s right to obtain an abortion, which Roe v. Wade forbids.
Backers of more restrictive laws are betting a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court will revisit Roe and will return the responsibility for regulating abortion to the states.
Right to Life actually opposes the heartbeat ban because it fears it would actually weaken Michigan’s law, which was passed in 1848 and bans all abortions except to save the life of a mother.
In Michigan, residents are divided on abortion, as they are in most of the country. A Pew Research poll found 54 percent of state voters say abortion should be legal in most circumstances, while 42 percent they should be mostly illegal.
Policy on abortion should reflect the values of the state.
The prudent course here would be to wait for the Supreme Court to settle Roe, and then begin a debate on how Michigan should respond.
Using the initiative approach would seem to short-circuit what should be a far more deliberative and inclusive process. It will be impossible, of course, to satisfy everyone on this issue.
But whatever abortion law looks like after Roe v. Wade is relitigated – if it is – it should hew as closely as possible to the views of a majority of state residents.