Citizens have proposed an amendment to Michigan’s constitution establishing that a person exists at the moment of conception.
The designation would give any unborn child constitutional rights of due process and equal protection.
A backer of the proposal, Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, said the petition drive is “vitally important if we are to insure that Michigan becomes a pro-life state after Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
The landmark 1973 decision did not actually ban abortion but nullified all state laws prohibiting the procedure. Most legal analysts agree that a Supreme Court ruling against Roe would return the issue to the states.
The proposed amendment, Thompson said, would “clear the ground of all issues dealing with interpretation of previous state precedent and statutes.”
Thompson said he’s “deeply disappointed that after 33 years and 45 million babies murdered,” some pro-life leaders have said they don’t believe the time is right to for such a dramatic step.
“If one truly believes a human being exists at the moment of conception and shortly thereafter suffers excruciating and prolonged pain while being sliced and torn apart in the mother’s womb, how would they not do everything they can to save that child – even though there is no guarantee of success?” he asked.
“The extreme caution exhibited by some pro-lifers reminds me of what Lincoln said about his reluctant General McClellan during the Civil War: ‘He has “the slows,”‘” too fearful of losing to risk winning, Thompson said.
He pointed out that last week, Pope Benedict XVI told a gathering of scientists and medical professionals Catholic teaching proclaims life begins at conception.
The pope said the Catholic Church “has constantly proclaimed the sacred and inviolable character of every human life, from its conception to its natural end.”
Rev. Stephen T. Anthony, superintendent of the Eastern Michigan District of the Church of the Nazarene and chairman of Michigan Chooses Life, a newly formed inter-denominational group of prominent Michigan pastors, is supporting the petition drive.
“It is a biological, medical, and spiritual fact that a new and precious human life begins every time a child is conceived in the womb,” Anthony said.
Thompson met a few months ago with leaders of Michigan Citizens for Life, the organization spearheading the petition drive.
The Law Center agreed to represent the group in any future lawsuit challenging the amendment, if adopted by Michigan voters.
The ACLU already has stated it will sue if the amendment passes.
The petition drive needs 317,000 valid signatures by July 10 to be placed on the Nov. 7 ballot.
Thompson said the Michigan-based group Right To Life–Lifespan and Michigan’s two Republican National Committee members, Chuck Yobb and Holly Hughes, also have endorsed the petition drive.
Michigan is one of several states that did not repeal its pre-Roe anti-abortion statute.
But Thompson said pro-abortion lawyers already have devised an additional counter-measure to a post–Roe situation, arguing the concept of “implied repeal.”
They will attempt to show that subsequent acts of the legislature, such as regulating the abortion industry, are irreconcilably in conflict with a state’s previous ban, and thus the latest statute has repealed the earlier one by implication.
Thompson said pro-lifers will have to be ready to defend against that argument.
“We should not refrain from direct challenges to Roe v. Wade simply because some pro-life strategists caution “wait” – the [Supreme Court] is not ready,” he said. “Directly challenging Roe does not mean we should abandon other pro-life legislative proposals aimed at chipping away at abortions.”
Thompson argued no one can know with certainty the ideal time to challenge a decision.
“Under those circumstances, all pro-life organizations, regardless of their opinion on a specific proposal, should work together in a spirit of unity,” he said. “We should mount an assault on Roe from all directions.”
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