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Reproductive Freedom Organizers in Michigan Put Right to Abortion on the Ballot

Organizers turned in more than 753,000 signatures to prompt the ballot question in the November election.

Abortion rights demonstrators march through the streets of Detroit, Michigan, to protest the Supreme Court's decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health case on June 24, 2022.

A grassroots ballot initiative in Michigan to recognize abortion as a fundamental right in the state constitution will be included on the November ballot, after organizers successfully submitted hundreds of thousands of signatures in support of the measure.

Reproductive Freedom for All, a coalition of pro-abortion organizations that include the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Planned Parenthood of Michigan and Michigan Voices, submitted 753,759 signatures on Monday in support of including a question on the right to abortion services in the state in this year’s midterm election. If a majority of voters vote in favor of it, the state would have to recognize abortion as a constitutionally protected right.

Organizers only needed to drop off 425,059 signatures to the state Secretary of State’s office in order for the initiative to be on the November ballot. The total turned in is the largest the state has ever seen in its history of ballot drives.

Organizers lauded their success after being able to submit more than 300,000 signatures than were necessary to get the measure on the ballot.

“The number of signatures showed that here in Michigan we trust women. We trust people. We trust doctors, not politicians, to make decisions about our body, our pregnancy and parenthood,” said Reproductive Freedom for All spokesperson Shanay Watson-Whittaker.

The ballot question asks Michiganders to answer, “yes” or “no,” whether they agree with the idea that “every person has the fundamental right to reproductive freedom, which involves the right to make and carry out decisions without political interference about all matters relating to pregnancy, including birth control, abortion, prenatal care, and childbirth.”

The ballot would still allow for lawmakers to impose some restrictions on abortion depending on fetal viability. Such restrictions can only occur, however, when a fetus is determined capable of surviving outside of the uterus “without the application of extraordinary medical measures,” according to the proposal.

The measure is considered necessary because of an anti-abortion law in Michigan that dates back to 1931. Due to the far right members of the Supreme Court upending abortion rights in a decision overturning Roe v. Wade last month, that 1931 statute is now technically the law in the state, although a state judge has blocked its enforcement so far, finding it inconsistent with the Michigan constitution.

If that judge’s injunction were lifted, however, the 1931 ban that would come into force would prohibit abortion at all stages, with the only exception being if the pregnant person’s life were at stake.

Michigan isn’t the only state with a post-Roe abortion question set to be decided by a statewide vote. In Kansas, voters will decide next month, during the primary elections, whether their state constitution recognizes the right to an abortion, a measure put forward by Republican lawmakers who disagree with a state Supreme Court ruling of 2019 protecting a person’s right to access the procedure. Voters in Kentucky will cast a similar vote on the question of whether their state constitution recognizes abortion rights, in the fall general election.

Most voters in Michigan appear prepared to vote in favor of the ballot initiative. According to a WDIV/Detroit News poll published earlier this month, most residents (57.7 percent) believe the federal Supreme Court’s ruling ending abortion protections was wrongly decided, while just a little more than a third (34.2 percent) say they agree with the decision.

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