Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Michigan anti-abortion advocates talk what's next for their movement

August 10, 2022
<p>Anti-Abortion supporters gather outside the Michigan Hall of Justice to celebrate the overturning of Roe v. Wade and rally to continue the fight to end abortion on June 24, 2022.</p>

Anti-Abortion supporters gather outside the Michigan Hall of Justice to celebrate the overturning of Roe v. Wade and rally to continue the fight to end abortion on June 24, 2022.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

After the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Michigan has become one of the front lines in the battle against abortion rights.

For anti-abortion advocates, this is the moment they’ve been waiting for for over 50 years. However, despite this momentous victory for their movement, Michigan is headed towards a contentious midterm election in November where abortion rights will likely be on the ballot and their fight has only just begun. 

“When Roe was overturned, we were incredibly excited because it is a huge step forward for human rights, something that we've been fighting to see happen for decades,” Executive Director of Protect life Michigan Christen Pollo said. “But at the same time, it was also heavy because it came with the knowledge that the fight is now returned to our state. And here in Michigan, I mean, I think we're going to be the greatest battleground in the country when it comes to whether or not there is a right to take unborn human life.”

Right to Life Michigan and Protect Life Michigan are two organizations that are dedicated to ensuring that the dormant 1931 total abortion ban goes into effect in Michigan. 

Their efforts include pushing anti-abortion legislation, public outreach and anti-abortion education. 

The only thing preventing the 1931 ban from going into effect is a temporary injunction passed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Planned Parenthood. The injunction is being challenged by anti-abortion activists.

“We’re still waiting to see if (abortion rights are) officially on the November ballot, but it looks like they will be so we’re just gearing up our volunteers …in the state and our coalition members,” Anna-Marie Visser, Director of Communications for Right to Life Michigan, said.

Right to Life Michigan focuses more on the legislative side of things. On their website is an option to “create your pro-life ballot” by viewing their personal “pro-life” ballot generator, where supporters can enter their name and location information to obtain a list of endorsed candidates to vote for. 

“What I can say is that within the bylaws of that board, if there is a candidate who is not completely pro-life, or has exceptions, then that PAC board cannot endorse them,” Visser said. “According to the bylaws … they then have to pick one candidate to endorse … because they don't want the vote to be split. And so Tudor Dixon was the best candidate against Gov. Whitmer.”

GOP gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon stands for “pro-family” values and was endorsed by PAC.

“Our vision for a just American is one that fosters a culture of life, from womb to grave,” Dixon said in a statement following the Supreme Court decision. “One where families can have children—and afford them.” 

Currently, Right to Life has partnered with Alliance Defending Freedom to remove the temporary injunction blocking the abortion ban. According to Right to Life, they are a “non-partisan, nonsectarian, and nonprofit” organization.

Alliance Defending Freedom is, according to their website, “a Conservative Christian legal advocacy group that offers legal services, supports restricting rights and protections for LGBTQ people; expanding Christian practices within public schools and governments, and preventing access to abortion.” 

Beyond banning abortion, Right to Life also advocates for the expansion of pregnancy resource centers. 

“We have over 150 pregnancy resource centers and adoption agencies in Michigan that we're constantly directing women towards because they do such a great job at providing resources and counseling and housing, and really anything women and their families and their children might need,” Visser said.

Going forward, Visser hopes that all people — pro- or anti-abortion rights, Republican or Democrat — will take a closer look at the proposed Reproductive Freedom For All legislation, which Visser, among many other anti-abortion activists, refers to as “Anything Goes.”

“The language is very confusing,” Visser said. “It's very broad. A lot of people we found, through our research, don't understand exactly what it would do …. there are a lot of consequences that people don't realize, taking this is just gonna legalize abortion in Michigan. But there's a lot of laws that are going to be changed that even pro-choice people want in place.”

This is where Protect Life Michigan comes in, an organization whose mission is “to end abortion by (1) recruiting and training students for pro-life leadership, (2) educating youth on life issues and pregnancy resources, and (3) networking students within their communities to strengthen their impact,” according to their website. 

Often, residents of East Lansing might see members of Protect Life Michigan lined up along Grand River Avenue, strapped with body cams, standing with large, graphic images of fetal matter. These are members of Protect Life Michigan’s outreach team, whose goal is simply to initiate a conversation about abortion.  

“Our goal is to educate people on the reality of abortion and change minds on abortion by showing them the reality of it. It's an important one because abortion is a huge topic right now,” outreach organizer Emily Dimmick said. “And there's just so much misinformation and misconceptions around it. And so we want to be able to be a beacon of truth of this is what abortion is, this is what abortion does.”

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Dimmick and Pollo said those witnessing abortion photography can feel uncomfortable, angry or traumatized. For one, the images can resemble miscarriage, and Dimmick and Pollo are aware that there might be women who have had abortions who see these images. 

“Our goal out here isn't to traumatize people or target people,” Dimmick said. “Our goal is to expose the reality of abortion for every one person who hates to see our images … we have so many more people who are seeing the reality of abortion for the first time seeing the victims of abortion, and realizing that it takes an innocent human life and that is a human rights injustice.”

For Dimmick and Protect Life Michigan, reinforcing the 1931 ban on abortion is just a starting point for the anti-abortion movement. 

Pollo noted that while the main fight for their organization in the next few months would be focused on preventing the Reproductive Rights for All legislation from going into place.

“Civilized societies don't solve problems using violence, yet that's exactly what we're doing when it comes to abortion,” Pollo said. “So we should be able to come together with people who see things differently than us in order to provide people in facing pregnancies, unplanned pregnancies, with all of the love and support and resources that they need in order to lift them out of those situations.”

Protect Life Michigan aims to support pregnant women not just through pregnancy, but throughout difficult situations in which they might think abortion is necessary—women in school, or in poverty for example. 

“What we also want to see is just a kind of a cultural shift… we hear people say all the time, like, ‘Well, if we make abortion illegal, people are still gonna get abortions.’ And we know that's true, unfortunately,” Dimmick said. “So we also want to just shift the culture so people think that abortion is unthinkable, and people don't even think of abortion as an option.”

For Dimmick, the fight against abortion rights is personal.

“I have multiple siblings that my parents have adopted through foster care … so it touches home for me because I see it in my siblings, and I see the live human beings that people use as an excuse for why abortion should be allowed. And I just, I can't imagine a world without them,” she said.

For Pollo, her anti-abortion activism is rooted in a long-held feminist identity. 

“I think that it's really shameful that the modern-day feminist has bought into this lie that we have to use violence in order to achieve equality or, for us to further ourselves, we have to resort to abortion … we need to solve the root problems and list those women out of those circumstances with real support,” Pollo said.

Going forward, Pollo hopes that people of all backgrounds embrace the anti-abortion rights movement. 

“I really want to see barriers broken down, so that are people who are progressive that are pro-life, or people who are nonreligious who are pro-life,” Pollo said, noting that some of her closest friends worked with LGBTQ+ anti-abortion groups or Democrats for Life. 

“I think we just need to be intentional about making space for them,” Pollo said. “I've been seeing that happening these last couple of years, organizations are popping up, that are progressive pro-life groups or secular pro-life groups … it gives me hope that people don't see this as a partisan issue, but that they see it as a human rights issue that all of us, no matter what our background or beliefs, can band together behind.”

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