One patient already had two children and was trying to extricate herself from an abusive relationship. Another ended up in Michigan after trying to get care in his home state of Ohio; She was handed a Bible at a crisis pregnancy center but no abortion pills. A third thought her childbearing years were behind her and was looking forward to rejoining the workforce.
All three women sought abortion care at Northland Family Planning Center in Sterling Heights, a city in the metro Detroit area. And all told their stories to reporter Kate Wells when she was embedded at the clinic for nine days in August and September. Wells’ story, produced in partnership with KHN, airs Nov. 3 on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” (The story includes audio of a woman performing an abortion procedure that some listeners may find disturbing.)
Northland was started in 1976 by Renee Chelian. She had an illegal abortion at the age of 16, in 1966, seven years earlier Roe v. Wade. In recent months, patients have been traveling to three locations in the Northland, from Wisconsin, Indiana, Oklahoma and even Florida and Texas.
But abortion rights are not guaranteed in Michigan. So far, courts have blocked enforcement of a 1931 law that bans the procedure with no exceptions for rape or molestation. But the jurisdictional conflict has been confusing. On August 1, for example, a rapid-fire court ruling meant that abortion in Michigan was legal at breakfast, illegal at lunch, and legal again at dinner.
Michigan voters will decide on November 8 whether abortion will remain legal in the state. What is known as Proposition 3 would expressly include abortion rights as well as other reproductive rights in the Michigan Constitution.
This story is part of a partnership that includes Michigan Radio, NPR and KHN.
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