On Proposal 3, fairy tales can teach us real-life lessons

A man wears a pair of pro-life pins during a rally against Proposal 3 at the Michigan state capitol on Oct. 15. (Gabriella Patti | Detroit Catholic)

When I was getting my journalism degree, I was schooled the old-fashioned way: primary sources, approached openly with a questioning mind. I’ve read the full text of Michigan’s Proposal 3 many times. It makes me uneasy. The language is vague. Imprecise. Maybe even sneaky.

I’ve been pro-life since I was a kid. I just haven’t been able to convince myself that it’s not a baby in there, a second life apart from the mother’s that deserves dignity at every stage. I don’t believe God created life for us to take it away.

In this proposal though, there’s more than “just” abortion. For example, I think parents have the right to know what’s happening with their minor children. The use of the word “individual” in Proposal 3 when the writers could have used the word “adult” brings me back to my point above: slippery language.

Now I’m seeing ads claiming that those who oppose Proposal 3 are lying about parental consent being in jeopardy. But I know what I read. That “individuals” have the right to make decisions about “sterilization, abortion care,” etc. While proponents of Proposal 3 say sterilization refers only to vasectomies and tubal ligations, the term "sterilization" also includes other procedures, e.g., a minor female who would like to have a hysterectomy and/or other protocols to diminish her female reproductive capability. Call me crazy, but as a parent, I’d want to know if my child were considering that.

On a website powered by the ACLU of Michigan, Planned Parenthood and Michigan Voices, a section titled “Get the Facts” regarding Proposal 3 presents bullet points trying to debunk the arguments of those opposed to the amendment. One point reads, “Parental involvement is already legislated and will remain the same.” Why the word “involvement” versus “consent”? Seems like another sleight of hand. What makes the point even more dishonest is that the official ballot wording states that Proposal 3 would “invalidate state laws conflicting with this amendment.” In other words, the very legislation proponents claim would protect parental “involvement” will be invalidated.

Proponents of Prop 3 say anyone who is skeptical about the reach of this proposal is trying to scare you. The reality is that the proposal itself is what’s scary, not those who point it out.

Language matters. If the writers of Proposal 3 never meant to put parental consent in question, they should have written precisely what they intended. Putting arguable language in our constitution seems unwise.

A friend posted a still frame on Facebook from “The Wizard of Oz,” when Oz is revealed behind the curtain, pulling levers as he says, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” It’s a great parallel to asking voters to ignore what they’re reading in Proposal 3. Another parallel is found in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen. (Read it to your kids if you haven’t.) In the story, the people in the kingdom can see that the emperor is naked, but because everyone around them is saying he’s wearing a dazzling new garment, people are afraid to speak up and say what they are seeing with their own eyes, for fear of being called stupid or naïve. A child eventually blurts out the truth.

The reason Proposal 3 is causing controversy is because we can all read it for ourselves. The language is dicey. If you write a proposal but you’re not exacting in your language, expect people to question it. If sloppy writing causes skepticism, then write more precisely next time.

The main message here: please read the full text of Proposal 3 before you vote. Do your research on anything that sets off a red flag. Only a summary the proposal will appear on the ballot. Know what you’re voting for — on all the proposals and candidates, in every election. It takes time and effort, but it’s important. You might not agree with me on Proposal 3. But if it makes you even a little uneasy, it's best to err on the side of caution and vote no. Because there’s no going back.

This is not "a return to Roe." It goes much further, and it is not a middle ground.

If passed, Proposal 3 will be enshrined in our constitution. Eventually, the slippery language will come home to roost. And we’ll all realize it wasn’t just us — the emperor really was naked after all.

Karla Dorweiler is a contributing writer for Detroit Catholic.


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