Having grown up in Michigan, I tend to follow Michigan politics. This year, the state’s midterm election ballot carried a proposal known as the Right to Reproductive Freedom Initiative, which sought to enshrine a right to abortion in the state constitution. Here is the complete text:
Proposal 22-3: A proposal to amend the state constitution to establish new individual right to reproductive freedom, including right to make all decisions about pregnancy and abortion; allow state to regulate abortion in some cases; and forbid prosecution of individuals exercising established right
This proposed constitutional amendment would:
- Establish new individual right to reproductive freedom, including right to make and carry out all decisions about pregnancy, such as prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion, miscarriage management, and infertility;
- Allow state to prohibit abortion after fetal viability, but not prohibit if medically needed to protect a patient’s life or physical or mental health;
- Forbid state discrimination in enforcement of this right; prohibit prosecution of an individual, or a person helping a pregnant individual, for exercising rights established by this amendment;
- Invalidate state laws conflicting with this amendment.
Should this proposal be adopted?
[ ] YES
[ ] NO
The initiative passed. Its writer(s) ensured that it would.
How so? Let me offer a few observations:
- Abortion is framed as “reproductive freedom.” Who is against freedom? Alternatively, who is pro-slavery? Apparently, the person who votes “no”—because “no” would be a vote for “reproductive slavery.”
- Traditionally the word procreate was used when referring to the begetting of a child. Reproduce refers to the same process—sort of, but not really. Procreation suggests a miracle, the word create being associated with the work of God. Reproduction suggests mechanical process, like a photocopier reproducing documents. The word chosen, whether procreate or reproduce, implies much about what is happening, or not happening, when a couple begets a child.
- Note the kinds of things the initiative supports: prenatal care, childbirth, and postpartum care. None of these, to my knowledge, is threatened so as to require a constitutional amendment. (Not even contraception is under threat, except, perhaps, contraception underwritten by taxpayers.) So why include them in this proposal? Perhaps because putting prenatal care et al. in the same category as abortion implies moral equivalence, thereby obscuring what is really at stake. Furthermore, a “no” vote could be seen to endanger a woman’s access to prenatal care.
- The language of prohibiting abortion can sound like reasonable compromise. Cold deception is more like it. Abortion activists were quite happy with the companion decisions Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, because Roe’s stipulation that states could restrict later abortion to life and health of the mother was voided by Doe’s definition of health, which included “all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to the wellbeing of the patient.” Conveniently, it is the abortionist (the “physician” according to Doe) who determines if a woman’s health, so defined, is endangered.
How might the Michigan initiative have fared had it been presented to voters in straightforward language, stripped of distorting wordiness and euphemism? For example:
A proposal to amend the state constitution to establish the right for a woman to have her child killed in the womb.
We’ve got to insist upon clarity in public speech, for “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov 18:21). And the pen.