West Michigan residents, businesses and representatives respond to overturning of Roe v. Wade

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Abortion-rights activist Carrie McDonald reacts to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, in Washington, D.C.
Abortion-rights activist Carrie McDonald reacts to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, in Washington, D.C.

GRAND RAPIDS — In a landmark decision Friday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, clearing the way for states, including Michigan, to renew laws either already on the books or proposed that criminalize abortion.

More: Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, returns abortion question to states

More: Michigan lawmakers propose 10-year prison sentence for abortion providers

More: Abortion questions remain for millions in Michigan

At the same time local protests were announced, organizations like Right to Life of Michigan — based in Grand Rapids — heralded the decision.

"The U.S. Supreme Court justices who voted to overrule Roe are on the right side of history today," said Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing. "This monumental day gives the states the ability to restore legal rights to the unborn hopefully, in turn, ceasing the unjust slaughtering of the innocent in our country.

"We stand by our justices and thank them for their courage and wisdom in overruling a law that has plagued our society for the past 50 years."

'A sad day'

For many others, the decision was catastrophic.

“Today is a sad day for America as an unelected group of conservative judges act squarely against the will of the people and medical expertise," wrote Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a statement shortly after the announcement.

"We can all sense the despair that tens of millions of Americans — our neighbors, family members and friends — are feeling right now. However we personally feel about abortion, health — not politics — should drive important medical decisions."

In the state of Michigan, a 1931 law remains on the books — banning abortion, without exceptions for rape or incest, and criminalizing doctors and nurses who provide them, Whitmer said.

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However, a temporary hold was placed on the law by a judge from the Michigan Court of Claims, who found Planned Parenthood is likely to prevail in a lawsuit saying the law violates the state constitution.

"But that decision is not final and has already been challenged," Whitmer wrote. "I want every Michigander to know that I am more determined than ever to protect access to safe, legal abortion."

Earlier this week, a handful of Michigan House Republican lawmakers filed legislation that would create lengthy new prison sentences for abortion providers (10 years) and those creating or distributing abortion-inducing medication (20 years).

The measure, led by state Rep. Steve Carra (R-Three Rivers) clarifies the person seeking the abortion could not be prosecuted and specifically indicates contraceptives like Plan B would be allowed.

Protestors rallied in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 23, ahead of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization opinion, which was released Friday morning.
Protestors rallied in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 23, ahead of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization opinion, which was released Friday morning.

'Correctly restores power'

Local lawmakers began issuing responses to the ruling Friday morning, including Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland).

"Today’s decision has been one (that) common sense, pro-life Americans have been waiting for," he said. "This ruling confirms there is no constitutional right to end the life of an innocent, unborn child. The decision correctly restores power usurped by the courts to the states and the representatives elected by the people.

"While today’s announcement is historic, the pro-life movement cannot waiver in protecting these innocent lives. I will continue to stand up for the unborn in the days ahead and stand against those who seek to enshrine policies that embrace abortion on demand.”

Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids) shared a similar sentiment.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision marks the beginning of a proud new chapter in America’s history,” Meijer posted on Facebook. “I have long maintained that our nation’s laws and policies should reflect a commitment to the sanctity of human life at every stage, and this ruling is a tremendous step toward upholding this critical moral responsibility.

“This decision protects our constitution by returning power back to the states, the American people, and the lawmakers chosen to represent them. I am proudly pro-life, and I applaud today’s Supreme Court decision that will undoubtedly save unborn lives.”

Rep. Mary Whiteford, R-Casco Township, issued a statement Friday afternoon saying she supports measures to “defend life at every stage.” She called Attorney General Dana Nessel’s decision to not enforce Michigan’s 1931 law “an abomination” of due process.

“The Michigan Constitution grants pre-born babies the same rights as every other citizen in our state,” Whiteford said. “The Attorney General’s decision to abandon her duty to uphold state law is an abomination of the due process that our system of government hinges on. Any changes to our Constitution must be done following the proper steps. One individual person should never have the authority to change the law.

“It’s more important than ever to embrace pro-family policies that lift up mothers and their children. As chair of our health and human services budget subcommittee, I will continue to prioritize funding measures that provide healthcare, counseling, childcare, and adoption services to women in need of support."

But not all lawmakers and candidates are celebrating. Grand Rapids resident and state congressional candidate Hillary Scholten — a local native, mom and attorney who served in the Department of Justice — made a statement as "the only pro-choice candidate" in the race for Michigan's third congressional district, where Meijer is the incumbent.

“Like many of you, I am worried, and I am angry," she said. "But I’m not quitting. Today’s decision is not the end. The Court has put this issue squarely back in the hands of the American people, ruling that the right to an abortion is an issue for the people to decide, through the democratic process in the states or the U.S. Congress.

"I am more resolved than ever before to continue our work. Today and every day, I stand strong for a woman’s God-given ability to make her own reproductive healthcare decisions."

Ryan Kelley's reaction caught on video

Republican candidate for Michigan governor Ryan Kelley — who was recently arraigned in federal court on four misdemeanor charges for his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection on the U.S. Capitol — was on video at Marlena's Bistro and Pizzeria in Holland when the opinion was handed down.

His reaction begins 9 minutes and 27 seconds into the 16 minute-long video.

"Oh boy," Kelley, an Allendale resident, said to a restaurant full of cheering supporters. "Supreme Court overturns Roe versus Wade!"

"God is working in amazing ways right now," Kelley said. "God is working in incredible ways, in all of us — who wants to say a prayer for us?"

After the prayer, Kelley said, "Well, what else do I say now?"

Marlena's Bistro has become a frequent campaign stop for members of the GOP, including Kelley, Huizenga and gubernatorial candidate, Tudor Dixon, since owner Marlena Pavlos-Hackney garnered national attention for refusing to shut her doors in response to statewide COVID-19 restrictions in November 2020.

More: Marlena signals she will close her restaurant during arraignment hearing

More: Holland restauranteur takes argument to Michigan Court of Appeals

Pavlos-Hackney was arrested in March 2021 and held in Ingham County Jail for four nights after ignoring multiple court orders.

She has taken her case to the Michigan Court of Appeals, seeking the return of thousands of dollars in contempt fines and acknowledgement that her constitutional rights were violated during her arraignment.

Businesses and residents

Business owners in Holland, too, responded to the decision, including Bluestocking Bookshop in Holland Township, which referenced Holland's upcoming Pride Festival in Centennial Park on Saturday, June 25.

"On the eve of #HollandPride we now have the official ruling from the #SupremeCourt," the business wrote on Facebook. "#RoevWade, which protects so much more than #reproductiverights, has been overturned. We will not be quiet. We will take up bricks for this change and do all we can to educate about how this issue affects us ALL."

The business added petitions are available to sign in-store at 501 Butternut Drive until Monday, July 4.

In the hours following the announcement, residents sent emails to The Holland Sentinel, including locals Alyssa Carle and Heather Funkhouser, who sent identical statements calling for reform on the Supreme Court.

"Right now, the right to abortion care is at risk because of a deliberate, decades-long takeover of the Supreme Court by powerful right-wing extremists," they wrote. "We’re seeing the culmination of this takeover as the Court just overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that made abortion access a constitutional right.

"This opens the door for states to outlaw abortion and take us back to a time when women were forced to go through with an unwanted pregnancy, potentially endangering their health and hurting their ability to provide for their families."

The duo called on Congress to pass the Judiciary Act of 2021, which would add four seats to the Supreme Court.

"It’s the solution that recent polling showed is supported by the majority of Americans, and it’s what we need to move away from partisan rulings that dismantle our rights and freedoms," Carle and Funkhouser wrote. "And it’s been done before. In fact, Congress has changed the size of the Supreme Court seven times already in our nation’s history. It’s time to do it again."

In a decision released Friday, the majority of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court said the constitution grants no right to abortion and there is no historical reason to assume the founders believed they should do so.
In a decision released Friday, the majority of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court said the constitution grants no right to abortion and there is no historical reason to assume the founders believed they should do so.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization

In the decision Friday, the majority of justices said the U.S. Constitution granted no right to abortion and there was no historical reason to assume the founders believed they should do so.

"Abortion presents a profound moral question," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority, which included three conservative justices appointed by former President Donald Trump.

"The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each state from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. The court overrules those decisions and returns that authority to the people and their elected representatives."

In a sharp dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for himself and the two other liberal members of the court, blasted the majority, saying the earlier decisions understood that "the government could not control a woman’s body or the course of a woman’s life: It could not determine what the woman’s future would be.

"Respecting a woman as an autonomous being, and granting her full equality, meant giving her substantial choice over this most personal and most consequential of all life decisions."

The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, centered on a Mississippi law that effectively prohibits abortions after 15 weeks, earlier than the 23 or 24 weeks at which a fetus has been considered viable or able to survive outside the womb.

A protest is planned for Holland at 6:45 p.m. Monday, June 27, where participants will march from Unity Bridge to Centennial Park. Interested parties should meet on the east side of River Avenue.

"This is a family-friendly event, so feel free to use bold and powerful language — but keep the especially crude messages on your private Facebook pages, please," organizers wrote online. "There will be chalk there for the littles (or the bigs, if they want.)"

— The Detroit Free Press contributed to this report. Contact reporters Mitchell Boatman, Carolyn Muyskens and Cassandra Lybrink at newsroom@hollandsentinel.com

This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: West Michigan responds to Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade