By Megan Kirk
The right for a woman to choose is under attack and the United States Supreme Court may overturn a decades-old decision that could cause reproductive shockwaves for all women. The historic Roe v. Wade case laid the groundwork for abortion rights. Now, almost 50 years after the case was decided, women find themselves at the mercy of the highest court in the land yet again.
In January 1973, the United States Supreme Court ruled over a case that would subsequently change abortion laws for women across the country. Striking down a Texas statute banning abortions, the Supreme Court determined a woman’s right to choose was protected under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. Now, the Supreme Court may be looking to reverse the decision, impacting more than 26 states and millions of women across the country.
Norma McCorvey, who was known as Jane Roe in the legal court filings, enlisted the help of two Texas attorneys who wanted to challenge the state’s law against abortion. Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington filed a lawsuit against the district attorney of Dallas County Henry Wade leading to a 7-2 decision against Texas by the Supreme Court. Since, then women have had the liberty to choose their course of action when considering pregnancy. However, for many states, including Michigan, the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade will have legal impacts that may be felt for years.
“If the SCOTUS opinion we saw this week is the final decision of the court, Michigan’s 1931 felony abortion ban could go back into effect, meaning nearly 2.2 million women in Michigan – and countless pregnant-capable people – will immediately lose access to legal abortion,” said Angela Vasquez Giroux, vice president of communications and marketing for Planned Parenthood of Michigan (PPMI).
Michigan’s trigger ban on abortions, a law set in 1931, would be back in effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Under this statute, anyone who facilitates or engages in an abortion will be found guilty of a felony unless in the case of saving the mother’s life.
Michigan advocacy groups are working to fight to uphold Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose her own fate. Planned Parenthood has been a fixture for women’s reproductive health for generations. As one of the organizations leading the charge to keep reproductive rights intact, Planned Parenthood of Michigan has steadily worked to ensure the rights of all women are continued.
“PPMI has been preparing for this moment since the results of the 2016 election were final. We recently filed a lawsuit to stop the 1931 law from going into effect, and we’ve also asked the state courts to affirm that the Michigan constitution does already contain a right to abortion. Our advocacy arm, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, is a founding member of the coalition that launched Reproductive Freedom for All, a ballot initiative to affirm the right to abortion and reproductive freedom in the state constitution,” said Vasquez Giroux. “The bottom line is that we will do everything in our power to keep abortion legal in Michigan, and if SCOTUS makes that impossible, we will do everything we can to ensure our patients can access the care they need.”
Elected officials are also working to keep Roe v. Wade intact thus holding off Michigan’s 1931 trigger ban. Governor Gretchen Whitmer released a statement saying, in part:
“The words ‘Roe overturned’ are no longer theoretical. I want every Michigander to know—no matter what happens in D.C., I’m going to fight like hell to protect access to safe, legal abortion in Michigan…”
More than legal implications, overturning Roe v. Wade would impact several systems across the spectrum. With the potential to drive both foster and adoption numbers upward, a ban on abortions could leave many women to choose a less safe route restoring ‘back alley’ and illegal abortion practices, including self-abortions. Moreover, African American women and women of color, who already have a long-storied history with access and inclusion in medicine and healthcare, may be adversely impacted by the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“What we are really concerned about is the impact on our patients. Access to abortion is already out of reach for far too many Michiganders, especially Black people and people of color who face additional barriers to care as a result of systemic inequalities and institutional racism. Losing access to legal abortion will impact those communities most, forcing people to become parents or expand their families against their will. Being able to decide and control if, when and how to become a parent is central to building and living a healthy, happy life,” said Vasquez Giroux.
Beyond the scope of pro-choice versus pro-life, the fight for reproductive choice is one of freedom. As Michigan officials work to ensure each woman who finds herself in the position to choose has access to care without the threat of legal action, many wonder what the Supreme Court will rule in the upcoming days. Despite the decision, advocates on both sides of the argument are willing to continue their pursuits.
“Overturning Roe v. Wade would be a terrible break with nearly 50 years of judicial precedent and – more importantly – a blow against individual freedom. It is my hope that the majority of justices will reject the findings of this draft. If that is not the case, we need to stand with Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Gov. Whitmer in support of their efforts to preserve the right to reproductive freedom,” said Chair Alisha Bell, on behalf of the Wayne County Commission.