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If Roe v. Wade is overturned, Michigan law would prohibit abortion for rape victims

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

If the Supreme Court overturns a constitutional right to abortion, decisions go back to the states, and some states have already decided. In Michigan, a 1931 law makes abortion a crime punishable by prison, except if the mother can show her life is in danger. Genevieve Marnon is legislative director of Michigan Right to Life, and she is fighting to keep the law in place. Our colleague Steve Inskeep spoke with her and started by asking about the leaked draft opinion striking down Roe v. Wade.

GENEVIEVE MARNON: We are celebrating to a certain extent. But at the same time, you know, we remember the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision that - we all thought that Roe was going to be overturned during that decision. So while we're guardedly optimistic, we are waiting for the official opinion.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Help me understand the environment in Michigan, then, when that law goes back into effect. I've read that Michigan's attorney general has said she's not going to enforce this 1931 law, but she has acknowledged that it would be a county-by-county matter, and county prosecutors would do what they want.

MARNON: I think that if a prosecuting attorney decides that they want to repeal laws, essentially - because that's what you're doing it - you're essentially telling the lawmakers, I don't like the law. So if they really don't like the law, maybe they should run for office and go through the democratic process of amending the law, rather than just saying, I refuse to do my job.

INSKEEP: Suppose that a woman has been raped and is in a desperate situation. How do you address her concerns and what she sees as her rights to make choices for her body and her life?

MARNON: I mean, hopefully, any woman who's been raped - we can surround her with love and support because she deserves all the support she needs. Rape is a violent, horrible, vicious crime that should be condemned by everyone. And, of course, no woman deserves that kind of violation. And we definitely support, of course, punishing the rapist, but we don't support killing the unborn innocent child.

INSKEEP: What would you say to a woman who says, this is putting me through months of, if not a lifetime of, emotional trauma?

MARNON: We have over a hundred and fifty pregnancy resource centers scattered around the state. Pro-life people donate millions and millions of dollars' worth of goods, services, counseling, et cetera, for women in a crisis pregnancy. Right to Life of Michigan has advocated for money in the budget, which our governor has vetoed, for help for women in crisis pregnancies. So, yeah, we definitely want to be there to walk with women who are facing difficulties.

INSKEEP: I think you're telling me that your concern about abortion overcomes completely any concern about the rights of the mother in this situation.

MARNON: Well, you have rights, right? You have competing rights. You have the right to exist, the right to life. Should that child's life be taken from him or her? Should they be killed because the mother is facing other difficulties that hopefully we can help her walk through? So we have this balance of rights, and this is what we're looking at.

INSKEEP: But I think the place where you're at on the balance of rights, if I understand correctly, is you are concerned for the mother. You care about the mother, but she has no right.

MARNON: We do care about women. We always have. The question, though, is she's facing this difficulty. Does that difficulty give her the right to kill another person? That's really the pivotal question here, isn't it?

INSKEEP: What do you think about a national circumstance after a Roe v. Wade overturn, where abortion would be legal (ph) in almost all cases in Michigan, but legal nearby in Illinois? There'd be a patchwork of laws across the country.

MARNON: Well, I think it's exactly what our founders intended. They wanted a laboratory of states. So I don't see why, you know, people who are big fans of democracy are now somehow offended by each state exercising democracy.

INSKEEP: So you wouldn't want a national abortion ban, as some lawmakers have begun talking about?

MARNON: Federally, you know, I think there is constitutional framework for that. If we recognize that unborn child as a human being deserving of legal protection under the Constitution and as a citizen of this country, it would make sense to have a national ban on abortions.

INSKEEP: You know, I want to ask one more question. People obviously feel very personally affected by this subject. Is there something that you feel people on the other side don't understand about you and your point of view that you wish you could quietly explain to them?

MARNON: Bottom line is, I'm happy to have a conversation with anybody. We really have to look at the core question of abortion. If the question is, can I kill it? - we need to be asking what it is we're killing and whether or not that thing that we're killing, that unborn child, has value. And in my perspective, that unborn child has as much right to live and exist as I do and you do. And that's what we're fighting to protect.

INSKEEP: Genevieve Marnon is legislative director of Right to Life Michigan. Thanks so much.

MARNON: Thank you very much. Have a great day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.