By Michigan Chronicle Editorial Board
The national fight for women’s reproductive health wages on as concerned citizens and public officials take to the streets and courtroom in concerted protest. The 2022 Michigan primary election is less than a month away and Detroit’s registered voters play a crucial role in safeguarding local women’s agency to make critical health care decisions for themselves.
While many concerned residents are still processing the Supreme Court’s devastating decision to strip federal protections of women’s reproductive rights, its important to understand the full impact of the fallout and ongoing response.
On June 24, history was made by the landmark Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization 6-3 ruling delivered by the Supreme Court, controversially overturning the seminal 1973 Roe v. Wade decision granting abortion as a federally protected right. Women’s rights coalitions and health care organizations across the country have been steadily rallying against SCOTUS’s decision to eliminate the constitutional right to obtain an abortion. In a hegemonic shift back toward conservative precedent, the “Dobbs decision” granted deferential power to individual states.
The resounding fear and outrage has mobilized tens of millions of people across the United States, organizing strategic actions to fight the rescission of nearly 50 years of progress protecting a woman’s unmitigated right to her own body.
On Friday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to protest abortion care and contraceptives, patient privacy and to called to establish an interagency taskforce to use “every federal tool available to protect access to reproductive health care.”
Status of Abortion Battle in Michigan
On the home front, Michiganders’ protection of abortion rights precariously hangs in the balance. Governor Gretchen Whitmer and hundreds of thousands of residents continue mobilizing against a 1931 statue that can be enforced to criminalize abortion without exception for rape or incest.
In April, Gov. Whitmer used her executive authority to protection legal abortion by filing a lawsuit urging the Michigan Supreme Court to immediately resolve the state’s antiquated trigger law against abortion. The move was made in anticipation of the Supreme Court decision, leveraging an uncommon gubernatorial privilege afforded in the state’s constitutional to take legal action against a perceived violation of civil rights.
On Thursday, the governor advocated further by asking the federal government to protect Michigan residents who might seek reproductive health care in Canada.
Several other states are simultaneously contesting pre-Roe laws criminalizing abortion, including Arizona, West Virginia, Wisconsin. Last Friday, Texas’ law was temporarily blocked by a lower court until the state Supreme Court allowed the ban to take effect.
In May, Elizabeth L. Gleicher, Chief Judge on Michigan’s Court of Appeals, enacted a preliminary injunction suspending enforcement of the previously dormant 1931 law.
Michiganders are still protected by several defenses in place against legal indictment as of July 8.
In a statement, Attorney General Dana Nessel reaffirmed her office’s commitment to not defend the statue that criminalizing abortion. Although there is an de facto stay from prosecution, the Michigan Republican budget plan “would set aside $750,000 to enforce it, while placing restrictions on health care providers who provide abortions.”
On the ground, over 800,000 people signed a petition urgently circulated by statewide campaign, Reproductive Freedom for All. The petition garnered nearly double the requisite number of eligible signatures and currently awaits review by the Board of Elections and certification by the Board of State Canvassers. If the petition qualifies, voters will have the power to decide whether the measure should be passed in November.
Days after the SCOTUS decision, Michigan pharmacies placed a limit on the number of emergency contraceptive purchases, such as Plan B, after an overwhelming surge in demand.
Currently, abortion continues to be performed in 27 clinics in 13 counties in Michigan.
Maternal Black and Brown Women Face Unduly Hardships Due to Discrimination
In order to fully digest the harmful implications of the restriction on women’s health care, residents must conceptualize the increased risks at stake for marginalized Black and Brown communities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are more than four times as likely to have had abortions as White women. On a national average, Black women are also more likely to miscarry or have stillbirths than White women.
The statistic mirror’s an investigative report presented to Detroit’s Public Health and Safety Committee on the city’s problem with Black maternal mortality rates.
Citing Mother Infant Health & Equity Improvement Plan (MIHELP) 2022-2023 reports, the study found that “Michigan women, infants, and their families continue to face deeply embedded systemic inequity, social biases, and related stressors that are closely associated with adverse health outcomes. More often, African American women and infants are experiencing disparate outcomes. These systemic inequities result in disparities in both maternal and infant outcomes.”
How to Make Sure Detroit Voices Counts
The Supreme Court’s decision was unequivocally archaic and lacks compassionate foresight to the collateral damage already unraveling before us.
Too many of us are understandably still reeling from the catastrophic attacks on abortion rights today and for generation to come. It’s easy to feel helpless by decisions made without popular consent by politicians that should have no business regulating birthing bodies and family planning advocates to their detriment.
Keep faith and the strength of community in mind, all is not lost.
There are several avenues Detroit residents can take part in to meaningfully exercise their right to defend the right for responsible reproductive health care.
Education and awareness of the issue and process at hand is a vital first step toward being an informed advocate. Residents should stay abreast of the ongoing battles supported by key public officials and make sure their concerns are heard by elected legislators. See full list here to contact your local state representatives to continue advocating for your best interests.
The November ballot is anticipated to include a referendum for registered voters to take their fight to the polls and directly consider the decision of everyday residents. While the Democratic Party currently controls the office of governor, the Republican Party controls both chambers of the state legislature with a 56 to 53 majority.
Vacancies in every congressional district are up for grabs and will decidedly affect the political allyship needed as Michigan currently. Get informed on the candidates in your district and their platform stance on abortion rights and cast your vote accordingly.
In addition, strongly consider supporting local organizations fighting to provide indispensable services to protect fundamental reproductive health care by donating to Planned Parenthood and other local clinics.
The Michigan Chronicle proudly stands with the unalienable right to reproductive health care for tens of millions of residents. We will continue to inform readers on the ways to make sure the hard-fought integrity of this protection is once again on the right side of history.