The state of Michigan has been receiving a fair bit of national attention lately, as newly-elected Governor Rick Snyder pushes forward shockingly anti-union, anti-working class legislation, some of which makes Governor Scott Walker’s bill in Wisconsin look tame by comparison. I’ve been on the front lines of the burgeoning movement here--particularly focused on building a more united left-- while also working to organize this month’s upcoming Walk For Choice in Detroit. So it was surprising to me to learn that in spite of the degree to which I’ve been scrutinizing these issues, Michigan’s recent proposed anti-choice legislation almost flew completely under my radar.
In the Lansing State Journal, Louise Knott Ahern offers descriptions of several of the anti-choice bills that have recently been introduced in Michigan. Among other bills not mentioned by Ahern, Senate Bill 13 would alter statutory law such that “The word ‘individual’ shall be construed to mean a natural person and to include a fetus.” House Bill 4433 would provide stricter guidelines for pre-abortion ultrasounds, mandating that an ultrasound be performed no fewer than two hours prior to the beginning of an abortion procedure, and requiring specifically that “The physician or qualified person assisting the physician shall ensure that the ultrasound screen is turned toward the patient to allow her to easily view the active ultrasound image of the fetus” (while still insisting that this constitutes giving women “an option” to view the ultrasound), as well as mandating that the most high-tech and visually accurate ultrasound possible be used. Particularly frightening when considering these proposals is the high level of support for anti-abortion measures in Michigan’s current state government: 76 percent of the Senate is anti-choice or mixed, and 71 percent of the House is anti-choice, mixed, or unknown. In Ahern’s words, “Michigan anti-abortion activists are taking advantage of what they consider the friendliest state government in decades,” proposing legislation with the potential to render Michigan one of the most restrictive states in the nation with regard to abortion rights.
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I care deeply about the issues facing the working class both here in Michigan and around the country, and it is my hope that the people of Wisconsin inspire others to build strong movements to protest injustices across the nation. But as we mobilize to speak out in the name of social justice, we cannot become so singularly focused that we forget to include the basic rights and freedoms of women. Now is perhaps the perfect time to inject a more holistic analysis into working-class struggle—for those of us who are passionately defensive of reproductive rights to send the message that issues of class and reproductive politics in America are intricately interwoven. Working-class women are disproportionately likely to need access to abortion; the conservative leadership in Michigan is at once proposing to make working-class motherhood more financially challenging—by removing our Earned Income Credit for working families, placing limits on eligibility for cash assistance programs for families, and mandating paycuts and privitizations that will harm all public workers—while at the same time placing further restrictions on whether one is to become a mother in the first place. It is a perfect reflection of a right-wing agenda that calls itself “pro-life” while constantly slashing funding for any programs that strive to improve the lives of those most in need.
The hundreds of thousands of protesters in Madison have it right: we need to get angry, to stand up and unite and fight back. But in doing so, let’s not allow reproductive rights to fall by the wayside. Let’s take this opportunity—a climate of reinvigorated energy for protest and struggle—to fight for all of our rights.