This is the fifth entry in a monthly series we’ll be running throughout 2017 looking back at historically significant profile moments in our state’s history.
1990 was a huge year for the prolife movement for two big reasons.
There were a lot of minor teen abortions in Michigan. In 1990 there were 3,820 abortions performed on girls 17 and under in Michigan. In most cases the parents had no clue their child had surgery and their grandchild had died. The position that children need permission to be given aspirin in school but can undergo surgery in secret is not very popular, yet it carried the day for years in Michigan, largely thanks to just one man: Governor Jim Blanchard.
Michigan's Legislature passed a bill in 1990 requiring parental consent for minors before they can have abortions, but Governor Blanchard vetoed it. So, Right to Life of Michigan did what we do best, and that's take advantage of Michigan's constitutional provision that allows citizens to initiate legislation.
Right to Life of Michigan's grassroots army of unpaid volunteers pounded the pavement and obtained more than 333,000 signatures in under 100 days to initiate our parental consent legislation. Approximately 192,000 valid signatures of registered voters were needed. With the legislation initiated, it was passed by large margins in the Legislature on September 12, 1990. The House vote was 61 to 40, and the Senate vote was 28 to 9. Because of the initiative process, Governor Blanchard was cut out of the process, just like he was cut out of the 1988 ban on tax-funded abortions in Michigan. Our bill became law!
Minor teen abortions in Michigan dropped from 3,820 in 1990 to 791 in 2016. It's difficult to figure out how much of that decrease is solely due to our legislation, but that's definitely thousands of lives saved over the years thanks to something simple like allowing parents to be involved with their children. The abortion industry can no longer count on roping-in scared youth for hundreds of dollars in cash each. Our law protects the rights of parents, vulnerable youth, and unborn children.
While that was an important victory, Governor Blanchard was still a large roadblock to additional life-saving progress. His opponent in the 1990 gubernatorial election, John Engler, was prolife, but a lot of smart politicos and reporters were writing his campaign off as hopeless. The prolife movement did not write him off and we pounded the pavement again.
On the Sunday before election day, a Detroit News poll had Governor Blanchard running away with victory with a 14-point advantage over John Engler. The only poll that mattered was the one on Election Day, however, and Engler beat Blanchard by a razor-thin margin of 17,595 votes out of more than 2.5 million cast; that's less than a single percentage point. Engler's victory stunned state and national media.
Engler and his running mate, committed prolifer Connie Binsfeld, would finally welcome the prolife agenda to Lansing for the first time in our history. Once again, prolife grassroots provided the edge that made the difference, which is every bit as true today as it was in 1990.
Governor Blanchard once remarked that you can only tell the same group "no" so many times, referring to our grassroots organization. True.
Honoring 50 years of prolife advocacy in Michigan
1972: The Voice of the Unborn
1979: Michigan Citizens for Life
1981: First Media Campaign
1988: Medicaid-Funded Abortions Ban