Column: Michigan could become Texas on abortion rights

October 9, 2021 7:45 am

Hundreds rally at the state Capitol for the MI Body MI Choice event on Oct. 2, 2021 | Allison R. Donahue

In one year, abortion could be illegal in Michigan. 

A recently released report adds Michigan to the growing list of “red alert” states – states where abortion could quickly become illegal if Roe v. Wade is struck down by the Supreme Court. Also on that list: Texas, where a blatantly unconstitutional law is back in effect per an appellate court ruling Friday night, exacting devastating cost on the millions of pregnant-capable people in the state who have essentially lost access to safe, legal abortion. 

It may surprise you that access to abortion in Michigan is as tenuous as it is in Texas. It should definitely scare you. 

If Roe is struck down, nearly 2.2 million women in Michigan – and countless trans men, nonbinary and gender non-conforming people – would lose access to safe, legal abortion – all because Michiganders never repealed the 1931 law banning abortion that was in effect when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Roe. 

Here’s what could happen in Michigan if Roe v. Wade is overturned

There’s plenty of analysis about what this means politically. But as an abortion provider, I know what this means for my patients.  

Every day, I see people who have decided to end their pregnancies. Abortion bans won’t stop the people I see from deciding what they want for their bodies and their futures – abortion bans stop them from living the life they want by denying them the medical care they need. 

If Michigan’s old abortion ban goes into effect, it will have devastating, real-life consequences for tens of thousands of our friends and loved ones each year – people who don’t want to be pregnant and don’t want to be parents, and will now be forced to unless they’re lucky enough to have other options. 

I’m guessing that very few of the people who are in favor of ending safe, legal abortion in Michigan have ever had to look a patient in the eyes and tell them, “I’m sorry, you can’t get an abortion today.” I have.  

For these folks who have made their decision, who’ve gathered the funds to pay for their abortion, who’ve taken the day off work and secured child care and made arrangements to get to a clinic, being told that what they have to wait, or go out of state, or come back after jumping through some additional hoop – it’s crushing.  Their entire life is changed in one moment, because of some laws some people passed who weren’t thinking about them, or what they wanted for their lives. 

In a pre-Roe world, the horror stories were about desperate women dying from unsafe procedures performed by untrained people. That won’t be what we see in a post-Roe world, thanks to the education about self-managed abortion among advocates and communities for decades. 

Instead, we will see millions of people living lives they decided they didn’t want – with futures that are less secure and stable. The harms of denying pregnant people abortions have been well studied and the findings are clear. People unable to access a wanted abortion are more likely to have financial insecurity, including an inability to pay for basic living expenses like food and housing. They are more likely to remain in violent and abusive relationships.   

On the other hand, compared to those are denied abortions, people who receive a wanted abortion are more financially stable, set more ambitious goals, raise children under more stable conditions, and are more likely to have a wanted child later. That is what I want for my patients and all Michiganders – a future of safety and security and love.   

These are the possible potential outcomes for Michigan I hope our leaders are thinking of when they are asked to repeal this old abortion ban: I, for one, will always fight for the future where all people who have made decisions about their futures and the lives they want are given the opportunity to have it.

No matter what happens, Planned Parenthood of Michigan will work tirelessly to give our patients the high quality, compassionate care they deserve – the kind of care that helps them live the life they choose. 

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Sarah Wallett
Sarah Wallett

Sarah Wallett, MD, MPH, is the Chief Medical Officer for Planned Parenthood of Michigan.