When I read the draft opinion of the US Supreme Court quashing Roe v. Wade, I was devastated. It was shocking to see, laid out in cold legal language, the blatant ideological reasoning that stripped the constitutional right to abortion.
I understand the frustration many feel. I feel it too. roe has been the law of the land for 49 years, almost all my life. But it may not be the law of the land for my daughters. Many of us feared this day would come, which is why I filed a lawsuit last month and, using the authority granted to me as governor, asked the Michigan Supreme Court to rule immediately whether our state constitution extends the right of access. to abortion.
As a woman born and raised in Michigan, I have a moral obligation to stand up for the rights of the nearly 2.2 million Michigan women who will lose their right to make decisions about their own bodies as Roe. fall. Michigan, like several other states, has a law criminalizing abortion, which is still on the books. It was enacted in 1931 and would make our state one of the most extreme anti-choice policies in the country once this court decision is officially released. as Roe falls, abortion becomes a felony in Michigan, with no exceptions for rape or incest.
My argument is based on the due process and equal protection clauses in our state constitution. The Michigan Constitution’s due process clause protects the right to abortion in the same way that the US Constitution does per Roe, and the equal protection clause prohibits the state from passing laws based on paternalistic justifications and overly broad generalizations about the law. role of women in the workforce and at home. Other state constitutions, including the Kansas, Montana, Alaska and Florida constitutions, have already been interpreted to protect the right to abortion.
I hope my new lawsuit can provide a way for others to follow. I encourage my fellow pro-choice governors, state legislators, private sector leaders, and citizens to use every tool available to protect access to safe, legal abortions. Since Michigan has a Republican-controlled legislature, I’m not optimistic that — as a pro-choice Democratic governor — I can get a bill to overturn the Michigan Act of 1931.
Those in states where abortion is already protected at the state level and where it will remain accessible as Roe falls can feel protected. However, there is a very real danger that in a few years, with full control of the federal levers of power, anti-choice, anti-women extremists could enact a federal abortion ban that could abolish abortion nationally, regardless of state law. This isn’t theoretical – it’s their endgame.
Nationally, I’ve joined some of my fellow governors from around the country to urge Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. The bill, which has already been passed by the House of Representatives, would protect Roe in federal law. I beg the senators to come together and make it happen. But I’m not going to sit on my hands and wait for Congress to do something.
A majority of the American people support safe, legal abortion and the protections Roe provides. They don’t want the Supreme Court or state legislators to take away a fundamental right that women have had for nearly half a century. Americans in every region of the country, including Michigan, trust women, not politicians, to make decisions about their own bodies. They are also against punishing women for seeking an abortion, and they are against abortion bans that start at six weeks, before most women even know they are pregnant.
Whether through legislation, executive action, voting initiatives or civic engagement, the answer to the overtly political pronouncement of a supposedly apolitical, unelected body is to engage in every way and at every level. The answer is to get creative.
A handful of states protected access to abortion through voting initiatives in the 1990s. In 2019, Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont enshrined access in their state laws. Massachusetts joined in December 2020 and New Jersey in January 2022. Colorado did last month and Connecticut last week. Efforts are underway in California to add access to safe, legal abortion to the state constitution. States are leading the way.
The private sector joins us. Amazon, Citigroup, Levi Strauss and Yelp will cover travel costs for employees who wish to undergo medical procedures that cannot be performed at their place of residence, including abortion. Lyft and Uber pay all legal fees for drivers charged with taking women to abortion clinics in states that punish or criminalize those who help someone, even indirectly, to a medical appointment for an abortion. More companies should join them.
If we don’t use all the power we have now, or if we succumb to complacency, Americans will suffer and may die. Many will be out of sight, forgotten. Most will be poor. A significant contingent will be women of color. We can all feel the hopelessness and despair that tens of millions of American women — our neighbors, relatives and friends — feel. But despair is a choice, and pessimism is a luxury. We must take unprecedented steps to protect the right to choose.