Note: this article contains descriptions which may be upsetting and unsuitable for children.
The Michigan Constitution allows the people of the state to sponsor legislation through a citizen’s initiative. This constitutional provision sets the guidelines for voters to be heard and potentially to enact legislation on issues that matter to Michiganders. Currently, pro-life individuals from every county are gathering signatures for a very important issue: an initiative that would ban the brutal dismemberment abortion procedure in the state.
The procedure (also known as dilation and evacuation) is cruel and deserves no place in civilized society. Commonly used in the second trimester of pregnancy, dismemberment abortion tears apart a living unborn baby inside the womb, limb-by-limb, and removes each body part individually. In 2018, 54.4 percent of all abortions reported after 13 weeks gestation were performed this way. Almost 2,000 unborn children in Michigan lost their lives last year through the gruesome dismemberment procedure.
Women and unborn children deserve better, which is why the Michigan Values Life Committee is leading the petition drive, with support from the Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC), Right to Life of Michigan, and several other pro-life organizations. Over the next several months, volunteers will continue to gather the signatures of hundreds of thousands of registered voters to bring the measure before state lawmakers. A simple majority vote from both chambers means the initiative becomes law. If lawmakers vote against the dismemberment abortion petition or decide to take no action, which is unlikely, the language will be put on the 2020 ballot for Michigan voters to decide.
Normally, to become law, a bill requires the majority approval of both legislative chambers and the governor, each chosen by voters to represent the views of their constituents. A citizen’s initiative like the Michigan Values Life petition drive, however, requires support from a majority of the House and Senate (56 representatives and 20 senators). It does not require the governor’s signature. This element of the initiative process is essential, as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has indicated that she will veto any pro-life legislation, including a ban on dismemberment abortion. The role of the governor is replaced with a large number of registered Michigan voters who represent the will of the people: 8 percent of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.
Requests for petition forms have been overwhelming, and signature gathering efforts have begun in every corner of the state, demonstrating the wide support that exists for such a life-affirming policy. While churches cannot promote or endorse candidates, they and other 501(c)3 organizations can speak out and distribute materials related to issue-based legislation. Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron and the Catholic bishops in this state strongly encourage Catholic involvement in this petition drive. To sign the petition, an individual must be a registered Michigan voter and may sign only once.
While the task of gathering 400,000 signatures is difficult, similar efforts have four times helped the state adopt the strongest pro-life laws in the nation:
1.) In 1987, the people of Michigan helped pass a ban on the use of Medicaid funding for abortions, unless necessary to save the life of the mother.
2.) In 1990, Michiganders initiated the Parental Rights Restoration Act to require the written, informed consent of a minor and her parent or legal guardian before an abortion.
3.) In 2004, residents advocated for the Legal Birth Definition Act, which prohibited partial-birth abortion. While the measure was struck down in court at the time, the campaign demonstrated wide public support for the policy. The ban later became state law in 2011.
4.) In 2013, the Michigan Legislature approved a citizen’s initiative petition, the Abortion Insurance Op-Out Act, to prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion in the state health care exchange.
Now, another opportunity to sponsor pro-life legislation is before Michiganders. To help end dismemberment abortion in this state and to send the message that better options are available for women and the unborn, visit www.micatholic.org/MichiganValuesLife.
The Word from Lansing is a regular column for Catholic news outlets and is written by Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) President and CEO Paul A. Long. Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.