Lansing Update: March for Life Comes to Michigan Capitol, and More From a Busy Final Week of Session

Thousands of Michiganders March for Life at State Capitol

Thousands of people rallied and marched in support of human life at the state Capitol this week during the first-ever statewide Michigan March for Life.

Thousands marched for life from the state Capitol to the Michigan Hall of Justice.

The March featured a strong Catholic presence, starting with the Mass for Life at St. Mary Cathedral with seven Michigan bishops concelebrating. Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron was the principal celebrant and Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea gave the homily, urging attendees to “fight like heaven” against the ongoing expansion and acceptance of abortion in society.

Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron was the principal celebrant of the Mass for Life at St. Mary Cathedral. Photo courtesy of Diocese of Lansing.

Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea gave the homily at the Mass for Life at St. Mary Cathedral. Photo courtesy of Diocese of Lansing.

The March was held on November 8 to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the passage of Proposal 3, which inserted a right to abortion in the state constitution.

Catholics from all corners of the state were represented at the March on the Capitol grounds, including many Catholic school students. The rally featured remarks from March for Life President Jeanne Mancini and Right to Life of Michigan President Barb Listing, as well as several other advocates for life. Bishop Boyea offered the opening prayer before the rally.

Students from West Catholic High School in Grand Rapids at the Michigan March for Life.

Members of the Legislature’s Pro-Life Caucus also addressed the crowd, which included Rep. Jaime Greene (R-Richmond) and Sens. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) and John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs).

MCC thanks March for Life, Right to Life of Michigan and all those who made the first Michigan March for Life possible and is grateful to the diocesan bishops and staff who helped promote the march and get people there. And finally, MCC is thankful to every person who came out to publicly pray and demonstrate their support for the protection of human life in Michigan.

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Final Version of Reproductive Health Act Headed Toward Likely Governor Signature

The legislative majority officially sent a final version of the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) to the Governor’s desk this week, which included a repeal of health and safety standards for abortion clinics and a repeal of the state ban on partial-birth abortions.

The package, likely to be signed by the Governor, thankfully did not include a repeal of the 24-hour waiting period to provide women informed consent, and the state ban on taxpayer-funded abortions through Medicaid will remain in place, as well.

Unfortunately, the final product will undo state law that protects employees from having to pay for their coworkers’ abortions through employer-provided health insurance. The package heading to the Governor will allow universities and colleges to refer their students to abortions, as well.

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Bills That Commodify Children Continue Torrid Legislative Pace

The House, on a party-line vote during a late-night session, approved legislation this week to drastically change Michigan’s family and parentage laws and legalize the commercialization of surrogacy contracts.

In conversations with and testimony before lawmakers since the sweeping nine-bill package was introduced two weeks ago, MCC has expressed concerns that the legislation will open the door to exploitation of women and promote the buying and selling of children.

While surrogacy is legal in Michigan, the package would legalize surrogacy contracts and compensation for surrogacy services, creating commercial surrogacy in Michigan. MCC has argued that such a policy move will create a surrogacy industry in Michigan that, if allowed to operate without accountability, opens the door to exploitative practices that have been documented to have happened in other U.S. states and other countries.

In California, for instance, two prominent surrogacy attorneys were criminally convicted after creating a baby-selling ring. Many European countries ban all forms of surrogacy, while Canada, Australia, and Brazil have laws like Michigan. Both India and Thailand have recently repealed laws allowing commercial surrogacy due to surrogacy tourism and exploitation of their women.

The bill package — House Bills 5207–5215 — now goes to the Senate for further consideration. MCC will continue to urge lawmakers to oppose the legislation that exploits women, places their health at risk, and create contracts that commodify human beings.

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Some Mothers May Not Choose Adoption if Bills Ending Confidentiality Pass

Birthparents who chose a closed adoption process would lose the privilege of confidentiality under a bill passed by the House but opposed by MCC and the state’s Catholic Charities agencies.

House Bills 5148 and 5149 remove the option for birthparents who choose adoption to deny the release of their identifying information. The legislation was first introduced in mid-October. Over two days this week, the legislation was given a hearing in a House committee, voted out of the committee, and then approved by the full House.

MCC, after consulting with Catholic Charities agencies that facilitate adoptions, testified to committee members that some women have valid reasons to opt for a closed adoption and to deny releasing their identifying information.

In fact, for some birthparents, having an option for confidentiality is vital, and without it, they may otherwise not choose adoption. In some instances, confidentiality is needed because there is concern for the mother’s safety, especially if she is threatened by an abusive situation.

MCC also noted that many Catholic adoption agencies have found that for most cases in which an adoptee wants to know their parentage, arrangements are and can be made within the current law.

The bills are now on the House floor for further review.

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Juvenile Justice OveRHAul Moves Forward Without Indigent Support Bill

Nearly every bill MCC supported in a wide-ranging package to reform Michigan’s juvenile justice system is on its way to the Governor’s desk.

However, lawmakers did not push forward a bill that would have helped secure better public defense of indigent juvenile offenders. The bill, House Bill 4630, would have added a person with youth expertise to serve on the state’ Indigent Defense Commission, and require the commission to align and develop new standards to incorporate specific considerations for the representation of youth in the juvenile justice system.

In response to the Legislature leaving out the indigent defense portion of the package, the State Bar of Michigan called on the Senate to adopt House Bill 4630 because “all Michigan residents have a constitutional right to effective legal representation, but our young people are being left to navigate the juvenile justice system with woefully inadequate legal representation, or no representation at all.”

See previous Lansing Update coverage on the House bills and the Senate bills that make up the rest of the package that earned MCC support.

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A Quick Rundown on Other Items of Interest Ahead of Early Adjournment

After months of speculation, the Michigan Legislature confirmed it will adjourn for 2023 earlier than usual, with this past Thursday marking the final day of voting before a formal conclusion is scheduled next Tuesday.

The new schedule will cancel several weeks of session that had been planned for December, with lawmakers expected to resume in January 2024.

The reasons attributed to the early end include the fact that the Democrats lost their two-vote advantage in the House after two of their members won local mayoral elections in Tuesday’s election, which will force them to resign from state office.

That brings the split between Republicans and Democrats in the House to an even 54-54, and bipartisan action would be needed to advance any legislation. Elections to replace the departed members have not been announced by the Governor yet and will logistically be unable to be completed until next spring at the earliest.

The early adjournment will also allow many bills that were not given immediate effect to take effect sooner. Bills that lack support for immediate effect upon signing instead take effect 90 days after session ends for the year. That date will now move from mid-March to mid-February for several signed bills from the past year, including one that moves up Michigan’s 2024 presidential primary to an earlier February date.

Because of the early adjournment, the Legislature took on a heavier schedule this week to push through numerous priorities. Here’s a quick rundown on items of interest to MCC that saw movement or updates this week:

Protecting Crime Victims

The Governor signed into law four bills supported by MCC that bolster protections for crime victims, such as allowing their faces to be blurred in certain court proceedings and allowing them to give victim impact statements remotely.

Improving Education for Foster Children

The House approved legislation ensuring foster children receive an education that puts them on track to graduate high school. The three-bill package, supported by MCC, arises from a report of foster children taking classes they later found out would not count toward their high school graduation requirements. The bills will next be considered by the Senate.

Preventing Church Vandalism

Bills that toughen penalties for those who vandalize churches and facilities connected to houses of worship cleared the Senate and are now headed to the Governor’s desk. MCC supports the bills, citing several documented attacks on Catholic churches in Michigan.

Protecting Vulnerable Adults

The Senate signed off on legislation to strengthen protections against exploitation of vulnerable adults. The MCC-backed bills have received wide bipartisan support in both chambers and will head to the Governor’s desk.

Helping Runaway and Homeless Youth

A Senate committee advanced legislation giving agencies that temporarily care for homeless or runaway youth more time to acquire parental consent while providing youth with interim services. The MCC-supported legislation gives these agencies more time to serve the youth before having to get child protective services or police involved.

Encouraging Community Solar Use

MCC offered support to House Bill 4464 in committee this week, which would cultivate community solar projects that allow individuals, businesses, and nonprofits to benefit from solar panel energy. MCC supported similar legislation last session to help foster participation of residential — especially low-income — individuals in renewable energy projects, and to encourage competition in energy production. The committee took testimony only on the bill.

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