Recently, Lutherans for Life of Michigan president Rev. Paul Clark wrote a brief article for this blog here notifying readers that the petition to ban the mid-to-late term abortive procedure of Dilation and Evacuation has failed. This article will offer a slightly longer version, explaining certain legislative quirks and details that led to the petition’s demise.
Summer, 2019 — Right to Life of Michigan mobilizes its organization with a petition to end the abortive procedure of Dilation and Evacuation. This procedure, performed after the baby is too large to be birthed, uses forceps and vacuum aspiration to cut off the baby’s limbs. The child then bleeds out, dies, and is removed piece by piece. More details about the procedure can be found at rtl.org.
Summer, 2019 — Michigan Heartbeat Coalition offers a petition that would ban abortions after cardiac activity is detected in a fetus. The petition drew criticism from Right to Life, who claims it would be in danger of superseding MCL 750.14, an 1846 law that bans all abortions in Michigan. Were Roe vs. Wade to be overturned, Michigan law would revert to the 1846 law. Were there a heartbeat law in place, the primacy of either of those competing laws would be at the mercy of whatever judge happened to take the case. I wrote about this confusion here.
December, 2019 — Right to Life submits 379,418 signatures to the Michigan Bureau of Elections. Although they received over 400,000 signatures, they vetted each petition to verify that the signatures were valid. 340,047 are needed to move forward. The petition is now in the hands of the Bureau of Elections, which is under the authority of the Secretary of State.
January – April, 2020 — The Bureau of Elections does nothing with the petition, largely due to the pandemic.
May, 2020 — The Bureau of Elections continues their vetting process on the petition. 500 signatures are drawn as a random sample to determine the validity of the signatures. If more than 465 of the 500 signatures are valid, the petition is certified. If 449-464 are valid, more samples are examined. If fewer than 448 are valid, the petition is declined.
June, 2020 — Planned Parenthood challenges the Bureau’s review via the Coalition to Protect Access to Care. If a signature is duplicated, misdated, or includes any other errors in any way, the signature is thrown out. Thousands of valid signatures are thrown out because of “damage” to the paper.
June, 2020 — The Board of Canvassers, under the Bureau of Elections, determines that the petition does not have enough valid signatures from the sample. However, Right to Life challenges their findings and the Board of Canvassers agrees to pull another sample—a process normally unheard of, but determined to be reasonable by the bi-partisan board due to the narrow margin.
July, 2020 — Planned Parenthood challenges the second sample. The sample fails a second time.
July, 2020 — Right to Life does not challenge the challenge of the challenged-challenge, and the current petition dies. As far as I can tell, the Heartbeat Coalition did not obtain its necessary signatures by its deadline, and their website has not been updated since 2019.
So … is that it? Hardly. Right to Life continues to work hard for all sorts of legislative measures. Their educational efforts are effective, and their opportunities to serve are many. This was a difficult petition because of the competing bill, an increase in requirements, and all the administrative folderol that came with the virus. I would not be surprised if another ballot petition identical to this one is mobilized in the next election cycle. I certainly hope so.
As our attention turns to election day, see this and this for what churches can and cannot do politically. You can also encourage your people to check out the candidates’ platforms on their local ballot, as well as visit Right to Life of Michigan for more resources.
May God continue to grant us forgiveness for Jesus’ sake, and may we all do better to save the lives of the unborn.
Photo (c) sqback/iStock
Connie Sumner - October 23, 2020
Michigan does not “dismember children”. A pre-born infant is not a child. A child is between the ages of 4 and 12.
Response from author Rev. Dennis Matyas:
Thank your for your comment. Please see entry 2 and 3 of Merriam Webster Dictionary regarding the definition of a child.
Lenore Castillo - October 23, 2020
I would like to say a few words about “partial birth abortion”…if you don’t care to read this I understand. Most of the population is horribly misinformed about this procedure.
I started my career in Ob/Gyn. I have delivered well over 200 beautiful babies and trained at a program that participated in partial birth abortions. At Washington University these were done with third trimester pregnancies that were clearly nonviable. The parents usually find out by ultrasound that there is something terribly wrong. Most commonly anencephalic babies. These babies have no higher brain. They have a severe form of spina bifida that failed to form anything more than a brain stem. It is incompatible with life. Some have their internal organs completely outside their bodies. Some have severe genetic abnormalities that will lead to a slow death over 3 months to a year. I remember one that was a parasitic twin. The dominant twin had most of the smaller twin embedded in its body. The baby had four arms and four legs because the smaller twins head was inside the larger twins chest cavity. These are not viable or correctable abnormalities. Sometimes (but not the majority) they are done because the mother will die if they are not performed. These parents face the hardest decision of their lives.
Having seen this, I can tell you that religious counselors are nearly always involved. A priest, minister or rabbi is usually present.
The reason it is called a “partial birth” abortion is because it is performed gently and as naturally as possible so that the baby is born alive. The baby is alive, but decisions have been made not to intubate or code the child. There is no trauma. Parents are informed of what to expect. Footprints are made. Everyone is involved. It gives them time to hold the infant and say goodbye. The vast majority of the time it is a beautiful and tragically sad event that gives closure to the family.
These procedures are not performed “1-2 days before delivery.” They are done after much counseling and thought. The babies are not “ripped from their mothers wombs.” They are usually done between 24 and 30 weeks. These are extreme situations and as health care providers we do our best.
You may feel how you like, but what I experienced was a wonderful example of upholding the Hippocratic oath. We do the best we can to eliminate pain and suffering for both baby and parents.
If you read this to the end, thank you. It’s only my opinion, but I’m pretty passionate about not eliminating this option to such tragically effected families. Thanks.
This response is from the author, Rev. Dennis Matyas
“Thank you for your comment. I can tell you enjoy your work in providing quality health and compassion for families going through such tragic events.
As a health care worker, you know then that these instances are exceedingly rare relative to the total number of abortions performed each year. Most, in fact (over 90%) are done within the first trimester and are overwhelmingly elective rather than because of an emergency. Last year in Michigan, around 2000 babies were aborted by dismemberment, and it is unreasonable to presume that any large number of those had parasitic twins or anencephaly, though it sadly does happen.
This petition sought to outlaw specifically the D&E procedure. Although there is always confusion in the subsequent legal interpretations of such bans, I do not know that the procedure you have assisted with is identical to the one in question.
But all of this is actually besides the point. The ethical question at hand is, quite simply, “Do we have a moral right to end a human life EVEN IF it would prevent suffering?” It gives me pause when people cite the Hippocratic oath in relation to abortion, since it is by definition “doing harm” to the child that dies.
Thanks again for your thoughtful response and for sharing your story. Let’s keep the conversation going. Feel free to connect with me personally.