Michigan voters to decide abortion policy this fall after state Supreme Court ruling

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled Thursday that an initiative that potentially enshrines abortion protections in the state constitution will appear on the ballot this fall, overcoming opposition from Republican election officials.

The Reproductive Freedom for All initiative, promoted by a coalition of groups that includes the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, would make abortion a constitutional right in Michigan if approved by voters. The state’s abortion law has been a source of confusion since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, as a 1931 law banning abortion would have gone into effect but was ruled unconstitutional by a state court.

Abortion rights supporters gather at a rally.  Some hold signs that read: Reproductive freedom for all.

Abortion rights supporters outside the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on Wednesday. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images)

While the Board of Elections verified that supporters had gathered enough signatures by the July deadline, the two Republicans on the Michigan Board of Governors voted against the measure on the ballot last month, citing issues with the spacing of the proposal’s language. While the two Democrats on the board voted in favor, it needed three yes votes for approval, sending it to the state Supreme Court.

In the opinion released Thursday, Chief Justice Bridget McCormack blasted Republican board members for rejecting the initiative, writing that more Michiganders had signed on to the proposal than any other in the state’s history and the challengers “did not bring nor a signatory claiming to have been confused by the limited sections in the full text of the proposal.”

“That is, although there is no dispute that every word appears and appears legibly and in the correct order, and there is no indication that anyone was confused about the text, two members of the Board of State Canvassers with power to do so would hold the voter request for what they claim is a technical violation of the statute,” he continued. “They would disenfranchise millions of Michiganders not because they think the many thousands of Michiganders who signed the proposal were confused by it, but because they think they’ve identified a technique that allows them to do it, a gotcha game gone terribly wrong.

“What a sad sign of the times,” concluded McCormack.

In addition, the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that a measure expanding voting rights, which both Republicans on the board voted against, will appear on the ballot this fall.

An abortion rights advocate wears a button on his T-shirt to support the Reproductive Freedom for All proposal.

An abortion rights advocate wears a button to support the Reproductive Freedom for All proposal. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images)

Democrats are hoping that the excitement and anger stemming from the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn abortion rights for millions of Americans can help them in this fall’s midterm elections, which historically have a bearing on the party that controls the White House. Last month, Democrat Pat Ryan won a special election for the US House in a New York district, focusing his campaign on abortion. Weeks ago, a proposal that would have removed abortion protections from the Kansas state constitution was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in a high-turnout midterm primary. Following the Supreme Court’s decision, some states have seen an increase in women registering to vote, while some Republican candidates have tried to back away from their extreme anti-abortion positions.

The stakes for this midterm election are especially high in Michigan. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel are both up for re-election as the party also hopes to gain ground in the state senate and state Supreme Court.

In addition, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates three of Michigan’s U.S. House races — two seats currently held by Democrats and one by a Republican — as competitive. A Yahoo News/YouGov poll released this week found Democrats with a narrow lead on the general congressional ballot.

Whitmer’s opponent, Republican Tudor Dixon, responded to news of the decision by writing in Twitter, “And that’s exactly how you can vote for Gretchen Whitmer’s abortion agenda and vote against her.” Whitmer attacks Dixon for her views on abortion, which include bans on the procedure even in pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Dixon won the support of former President Donald Trump in the primary after repeating his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *