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  • Writer's pictureDoctor Detroit

10 Years after Roe vs. Wade – The Impact on Michigan

This week’s post is not pro or anti Proposal 22-3, commonly known as Proposal 3 – Right to Reproductive Freedom. We live in a country where we are fortunate enough to have the right to vote our conscious, our values, and to let our desires be known through that act. I encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote no matter whom or what you support.

I want to focus this week’s post on some of the history concerning abortion rights here in Michigan. I came across a Detroit Free Press article by Suzanne Dolezal. The article was from January 21, 1983, and was titled, “Ten years after the Roe vs. Wade decision – Debate goes on despite change in laws and lives.” On January 22, 1973, in Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court ruled that a woman had a constitutional right to an abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy, during the second trimester, the state could impose restrictions relating to the woman’s health, and during the third trimester the state could protect the fetus. This ruling was reversed on June 24, 2022, when the Supreme Court dismantled 50 years of legal protection and paved the way for states to curtail or ban abortions by eliminating the federal constitutional right to abortion.

After reading the Detroit Free Press article from 1983, I was struck by how almost 40 years later some things still have not changed. The article stated that 10 years after the Roe vs. Wade decision, Americans were still divided over whether abortions should be legal. People questioned if it were a public or a private matter? And today – we are still asking the same questions.

In 1983, pro-choice advocates argued that women for the last 10 years had been able to go to a safe and licensed facility for abortions instead of having to risk their lives at unregulated ones. Dr. Jerrold Weinberg stated, “Women are going to have abortions whether they are legal or illegal. If abortions are illegal, we’ll have no control over them, and it will not be uncommon to see healthy young women having hysterectomies, or dying, because of infections caused by illegal abortions.”

Dr. Jerrold Weinberg - 1983

Pro-life advocates felt that abortion created new categories of wanted and unwanted life. They argued that studies showed that numerous abortions jeopardized a woman’s future childbearing ability, and abortion promoted a calloused attitude toward life that opened the door to infanticide and euthanasia. Barbara Listing, who was president of Right of Life of Michigan in 1983 stated, “I don’t think the violence of abortion is what women really want. Abortion is the violent solution for the husband who doesn’t want to support another child, the boyfriend who doesn’t want to get married, the parents who don’t want the embarrassment of a pregnant teenage daughter.”

Eight years after Roe vs. Wade, in 1981, 45,787 women, which included non-residents, had abortions in Michigan. Of that number, 44,031 were Michigan residents. It is interesting to note that abortion impacted a number of issues. For example, in Michigan, from 1973 to 1983, there was a 79% drop in the maternal death rate, a 52% decrease in the marriage rate among girls aged 15 to 19, and a seven percent decline in the birth rate among all women. The legalization of abortion was a factor, although how big, remained unknown.

Tomorrow, Michiganders will vote on Proposal 22-3 and the will of the people will become law and once again, history will be made.

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