On June 19, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers approved a 100-word summary and form of a petition to ban dismemberment abortions (also known as dilation and evacuation or D&E). This procedure, most commonly used during the second trimester of pregnancy, dismembers an unborn child, removing him or her from the womb limb by limb. In 2018, over 1,900 were performed in Michigan. As the petitions are printed, Right to Life of Michigan has formed a committee, Michigan Values Life, to lead a signature-gathering effort through a citizens initiative petition.
What’s a citizens initiative petition and why is it important?
The Michigan Constitution allows the people to initiate legislation through a petition. In May 2019, the Michigan House and Senate passed legislation banning D&E abortions, but Governor Whitmer has said she will veto the legislation when it reaches her desk. To succeed, this citizen-led petition needs approximately 340,000 signatures in 180 days. If that minimum is reached, the policy will go into effect with a majority vote in the House and Senate and will not require the governor’s signature. If state lawmakers vote against the petition or take no action, it will go on the 2020 ballot to be approved or rejected by Michigan voters. The goal of Michigan Values Life is to collect approximately 400,000 signatures.
How can I get involved in the signature gathering process?
Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) strongly encourages Catholics and parishes to participate in the petition drive which has the full support of the Michigan bishops. A petition order form, circulating instructions, and other materials are available from Michigan Values Life. If you plan to gather signatures before or after Masses at your parish, please check with your pastor for approval and any additional instructions.
Can I sign more than once?
Each registered voter may only sign the petition ONCE. With two petition drives regarding abortion circulating the state, be very clear that you are signing the ‘End Dismemberment Abortion’ petition and only signing once.
What about the ‘Michigan Heartbeat Coalition’ petition?
The heartbeat petition drive is separate from the petition drive to bypass Governor Whitmer’s veto of the dismemberment abortion ban. The heartbeat petition does not have the support of the MCC or the Michigan bishops. Here’s why: the petition language would prohibit any abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected (approximately six to eight weeks of gestation). While the intent of this legislation is honorable, it would weaken and potentially repeal Michigan’s existing pro-life law. Michigan law, enacted in 1846, and later renewed in 1931, already protects all unborn children, once a heartbeat is detected and even prior to its detection. Should a heartbeat ban be implemented, it would not likely be effective until Roe v. Wade is overturned. At that point, the state’s existing ban on abortion would again become enforceable. At best, a heartbeat ban would be redundant, but at worst, a heartbeat ban could be interpreted as repealing the 1931 law and allow abortions up until a baby’s heartbeat is detected.
Unlike the ‘Michigan Heartbeat Coalition’ petition, the ‘End Dismemberment Abortion’ petition seeks legislation to amend the existing ban on partial-birth abortion. Therefore, legislation brought forth by the ‘End Dismemberment Abortion’ petition will only prohibit a specific type of abortion procedure (dismemberment or D&E).
The standard guidance during election seasons for Catholic parishes in this state is to only support materials or efforts from the arch/diocesan bishop, MCC, or the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). MCC does not support the ‘Michigan Heartbeat Coalition’ petition drive that is also currently underway, and therefore, the heartbeat initiative and its activities should not be promoted by and within parishes.