Doctor concerned over language in Michigan abortion amendment

Michigan voters will soon decide if abortion should be protected by the state constitution.

The proposed amendment would overrule the prevailing 1931 law in Michigan that outlaws abortion without exception for rape or incest. Under that ban, providing non-life-saving abortions is prosecuted as manslaughter.  

As of now, abortion is legal in the state after Oakland County Judge Jacob James Cunningham upheld an injunction on the state's ban on the procedure last month. Depending on the result of the November election, that could change.

Dr. Michelle Monticello, who has been an obstetrician and gynecologist for 25 years, said she is concerned about the language in the amendment that references healthcare professionals rather than doctors.

"What kind of healthcare professional? Would it be a physician, a clinical nurse midwife, a nurse practitioner, people who are truly qualified to perform and counsel women about these procedures? Or would it include other types of healthcare professionals that perhaps don't have that same level of training?" she said.

Read more from a doctor who supposes the proposal here.

The amendment says the state may regulate abortion after fetal viability as long as it does not prohibit an abortion that is medically indicated to protect the life, physical health, or mental health of the pregnant individual.

Monticello is also concerned about this.

"This opens the door for many definitions. We're not talking about life-threatening conditions to the mother here. We're talking about other issues, perhaps low back pain, depression, anxiety, many common ailments that pregnant women face," she said.

These are conditions that Monticello says are treatable, and she doesn't think that treatment shouldn't be terminating a pregnancy in the second or third trimester.

"I have concerns that it may become an easy option for women if we're not careful with this wording," she said.

Another longtime obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr. Timothy Johnson, disagrees with that interpretation.

"That's not how physicians practice in the state of Michigan," he said. "I mean Roe allowed us to provide terminations of pregnancy up to 24 weeks, which is very far away from 40 weeks, which is delivery."

Monticello says the language in Proposal 3 is too vague to know for sure.

"I think we can safely work within the laws that are on our books in the state of Michigan to perhaps allow for caveats that can be decided by our representatives in Lansing," she said.