In Memory of Our Leader, Jane Muldoon

Jane Muldoon, former president and executive director of Right to Life of Michigan, passed away on Saturday, February 6.

Jane was born in Florida on August 13, 1927. Family brought Jane to Michigan, when her late husband Jim took a job as a surgeon in Grand Rapids in 1955. Jane and Jim lived here until her retirement in 1995, at which point Michigan had to surrender her back to Florida. Along the way, their family grew to include 11 children and now 84 grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.

Her love of children and service to others ultimately led Jane to become a founder of Right to Life of Michigan, and later our dear leader.

In 1970, Jane recruited people from her church, St. Stephens Catholic Church in Grand Rapids, to create a study group involving the issue of abortion. At the time, abortion advocates in Michigan were gearing up to create a ballot proposal to legalize abortion. This study group began collecting local professors, doctors, lawyers, and others committed to protecting unborn children. Today, this study group is known as Grand Rapids Right to Life.

Jane and her Grand Rapids compatriots weren’t alone, as citizens from around the state began organizing their own local efforts, including large groups in Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Metro Detroit.

Following several defeats in the Michigan Legislature, abortion advocates collected enough signatures to place a proposal on the November 1972 ballot to legalize abortion through 20 weeks of pregnancy. Their supporters were many, including Michigan’s Republican Governor William Milliken. Polls showed Proposal B was likely to pass. They believed they represented the voice of Michigan’s voters.

Grassroots prolifers around the state united to defeat this ballot proposal, including Grand Rapids Right to Life. Together as the “Voice of the Unborn,” they prevailed in stunning fashion, winning 61% of the vote and keeping Michigan’s laws protecting unborn children. This election was overturned just weeks later when the U.S. Supreme Court forced the legalization of abortion—for any reason at any time in pregnancy—on all 50 states on January 22, 1973. The Supreme Court’s decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton meant Michigan’s law couldn’t be fully enforced—even though it was the will of Michigan voters.

The Voice of the Unborn coalition had debated whether a formal organization was necessary moving forward, but the Supreme Court left them no choice but to remobilize. Their common mission was to ensure Michigan’s law protecting unborn children would one day be fully enforced again. We continue this fight today.

One year later in 1974, the tireless Jane Muldoon was elected as the president of this grassroots coalition, then called Michigan Citizens for Life, and today called Right to Life of Michigan. Jane served us as president until 1980. Her leadership and vision were critical in bringing Right to Life of Michigan to the forefront of the entire prolife movement in America. After her time as president, Jane continued until 1995 to serve as Right to Life of Michigan’s executive director alongside our current President Barbara Listing.

Jane also chaired the Right to Life of Michigan Political Action Committee. For 19 years, Jane was the voice of prolife Michigan as a delegate on the board of National Right to Life, including service on their executive committee.

In her 25 years of prolife leadership, perhaps Jane’s most impactful achievement was her role as director of the Committee to End Tax Funded Abortion in 1987. Jane led a coalition including Right to Life of Michigan to collect more than 460,000 signatures to initiate legislation to end Medicaid-funded abortions in Michigan. After successfully passing the initiative into law, abortion advocates collected signatures of their own to let voters have a referendum on it 1988. Once again, the pro-abortion movement would go toe-to-toe with Jane at the ballot box, and once again, Jane won.

In just its first year, our ban on taxpayer-funded abortions reduced abortions in the state by more than 10,000. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people owe their lives to Jane’s determination—practically none of which have any awareness that a Grand Rapids mother of 11 with a passion for volunteering is the reason they are alive today.

Jane was also instrumental in passing our 1990 law requiring parental consent for minor teens seeking abortions. She served as director of the Citizens for Parent’s Right coalition in that successful petition drive. Since her victory, abortions sought by minor teens in Michigan dropped from 3,820 in 1990 to 694 in 2019.

Beyond legislation and election victories, Jane laid the foundation for our educational efforts. Her vision for multi-media advertising led to our first statewide television advertising campaign and later Right to Life of Michigan Educational Fund’s Media Impact Campaign. These served as models for prolife groups around the country.

Jane would say that nobody is irreplaceable. That is true, but it is impossible to imagine Right to Life of Michigan and the prolife movement today without Jane’s 25 years of service.

Those who still work or volunteer for Right to Life of Michigan who knew her well continue to share their own Jane Muldoon stories; some showcasing her sense of humor, others her ambition to do more to save lives. One of Jane’s mottos captures her spirit and her contribution to our movement, and it will continue to live on at Right to Life of Michigan: “just do it!”

Jane did it so well. Her life serves as a shining example for any person who sees a great injustice and resolves to do something about it.

Rest in peace, Jane.

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