Pro-life leaders react to Michigan’s rising abortion rate, vow to protect life

A demonstrator stands outside the Eastland Women's Clinic in Eastpointe during a pro-life prayer vigil in August 2020. The state of Michigan has reported a 9 percent increase in abortions in the state. (Valaurian Waller | Detroit Catholic)

Pandemic, economic challenges contributed to 9 percent increase in abortions in 2020; pro-life leaders redouble efforts to help women

LANSING Pro-Life advocates across the state are decrying a recent report that Michigan’s abortion rate is the highest it's been in three decades.

An Oct. 21 Detroit News story reported that Michigan has seen a 9 percent increase in abortion from a year ago, with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reporting 29,669 abortions were performed in Michigan, with 1,621 abortions — 5.7 percent — coming from out-of-state women traveling to Michigan to procure an abortion.

Anna Visser, director of communications for Right to Life – Michigan, said last year’s COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent economic shutdown that led to job losses and increased fear of economic instability saw more women resort to abortion.

“There could be a number of reasons why the abortion rate increased in 2020,” Visser told Detroit Catholic. “People could have gotten an abortion because they were laid off from their jobs, so they had economic struggles, or maybe they didn’t have the support in the city they lived in.”

According to statistics Right to Life – Michigan complied, the abortion rate is higher in urban areas such as Detroit, where more abortion facilities were in operation during the pandemic.

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Pro-life advocates say a weakened economy plus the closure of pro-life resource centers contributed to Michigan's increased abortion rate. (Valaurian Waller | Detroit Catholic)

Visser said Right to Life – Michigan recently conducted a campaign to assist pregnancy resource centers in the Detroit area, which once again saw the highest abortion rate in the state.

“We just finished our pregnancy grant tour, where we gave grants to eight different pregnancy resource centers in Detroit,” Visser said. “We specifically targeted Detroit, because we know there is a higher (abortion) level there and an increase in 2020.”

The Archdiocese of Detroit’s Office of Evangelical Charity last year launched its “Walking with Moms in Need” initiative, a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops-supported partnership between the archdiocese and Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan to equip parishes in raising awareness about resources that provide assistance to pregnant and parenting moms.

“People often criticize (the pro-life community) that we are against abortion but do nothing to help women in need; this could not be further from the truth," said Kathleen Wilson, pro-life and Project Rachel coordinator for the Archdiocese of Detroit. "Throughout the Archdiocese of Detroit and the state of Michigan, pro-life Catholics and others of good faith have long been providing services and accompanying women in need.”

Parishioners from the Archdiocese of Detroit walk down Constitution Avenue during the 2020 March for Life in Washington, D.C. Kathleen Wilson, pro-life coordinator for the archdiocese, said programs like "Walking With Moms in Need" and other ministries and services in the archdiocese help pregnant women with resources and support. (Paul Duda | Detroit Catholic)

Wilson noted organization such as Mary’s Mantle, a Catholic home for expectant mothers, aim to provide long-term support to mothers who find themselves unsure what to do with an unexpected pregnancy. Similarly, Project Rachel, an abortion healing ministry, helps women and men who have experienced trauma and regret from a previous abortion decision find counseling, healing and reflection.

“As we look at the increase in abortions in our local communities, our new ‘mission territory’ is our own neighborhoods, our own workplaces, among our peers, family members, and even at our local abortion center,” Wilson said. “Many women choose abortion out of fear; fear can also keep us from speaking up for the vulnerable unborn and offering real choices to their parents.

"We can pray for the apostolic boldness and confidence in God to equip us in offering hope, mercy and reconciliation,” Wilson added.

The pandemic has not slowed pro-life advocacy, now more important than ever as the issue grows in national prominence and amid rising abortion rates in Michigan, others say.

“We have seen active participation in public prayer demonstrations, forceful homilies on the sanctity of life, active healing ministries for women and men who have been hurt by abortion, fundraisers for baby care items collected for local pregnancy centers and the Knights of Columbus collecting money for ultrasounds,” said Patti Rose, president of Right to Life – Michigan/Novi.

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Demonstrators hold up images of Our Lady of Guadelupe, patroness of the pro-life movement in America, during a pro-life prayer vigil in Eastpointe in August 2021. (Photo by Valaurian Waller | Detroit Catholic)

From a policy perspective, the Michigan Catholic Conference for the past seven years has advocated for the state Legislature to pass budgets that support programs such as Real Alternatives, a nonprofit that provides funding for pregnancy resources centers throughout Michigan.

In September, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed $16 million from the state budget for programs to encourage adoption, provide non-abortion aid to pregnant women and support for new moms.

Some of the vetoed programs would have provided resources to pregnancy centers that support women in need with medicine, pre-natal vitamins and material support and counseling from pregnancy through the first year of the child’s life.

“The intent of these programs is to take off the table one of the primary reasons so many women choose abortion,” said Dave Maluchnik, vice president of communications for the Michigan Catholic Conference. “They do not feel they have support around them as they go through their pregnancy."

Maluchnik said in the four years Real Alternatives and other programs were supported by the Michigan state budget, more than 8,000 women were served.

“As Pope Francis says, the Church needs to be there to walk with people in difficult circumstances,” Maluchnik said. “The program was meant to walk with women in need, to provide diapers, furniture, clothing, transportation and doctors’ visits.”

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Michiganians hold signs at the 2020 March for Life in Washington, D.C. Despite the sobering news of the state's increased abortion rate, pro-life leaders said volunteers and demonstrators still are committed to the cause of speaking out for the unborn and their mothers. (Paul Duda | Detroit Catholic)

Recognizing 2020 was a difficult year for many families, Maluchnik said programs such as Real Alternatives are vital to helping mothers who worry about the financial realities surrounding pregnancy.

“Back in April 2020, when the pandemic was with us and everything was closing down, abortion facilities remained open, but pregnancy resource center had to close,” Maluchnik said. “The Michigan Catholic Conference found that puzzling, citing the immense pain those who need surgeries had to deal with while they sat around and waited. But abortion facilities in the state were open, which many with relatives awaiting surgeries to relieve their own pain and suffering found very troubling.”


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