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Anti-abortion group drops petition to ban abortion procedure

a sign that says "stop abortion now" and another that says "keep abortion legal"
Unsplash/Adobe Stock

An anti-abortion group says it’s dropping its effort to ask voters whether to ban an abortion procedure. Right to Life of Michigan said Tuesday that it won’t challenge the state Bureau of Elections, which concluded too many of the signatures the group submitted were duplicates or had other problems.

That put the petition short of the 340,047 valid signatures needed to get on the ballot. If passed, the measure would have banned intact dilation and extraction, which is a procedure most commonly used in the second trimester. Some 2,000 Michigan women received this type of abortion in 2019, the most recent year for which state data is available. That’s about 7% of all abortions performed that year. (Roughly 87% of abortions were done in the first trimester.)    

Genevieve Martin is Right to Life of Michigan’s legislative director. She says the number of signatures they needed is based on turnout in the last midterm election, which was the highest in decades. 


“So it's the highest threshold of signatures ever required of a petition initiative,” she says. “And I think that's part of the reason why we fell short." 

Martin says some voters likely signed twice because they may have been confused by a competing anti-abortion petition circulating at the same time. 

“They just simply didn't realize, [and thought] ‘Oh, I think I signed this one, but maybe I signed that one,’” Martin says. “And so we ended up with a number of duplicate signatures, unfortunately. And Michigan is one of the states that throws out both signatures if they've signed it twice.” 

Right to Life of Michigan describes the drive as an effort to ban “dismemberbment abortions,” which is a non-medical term for intact dilation and extraction procedures.

“And today in the state of Michigan, five babies will meet their end through a dismemberment abortion, and five yesterday and five tomorrow,” Martin says. “Nearly 2000 babies a year in the state of Michigan are dismembered, alive in their mother's wombs. And we were trying to ban that particularly horrific and barbaric form of abortion.”

But Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan say these are “manufactured” scare tactics. 

“It's interesting to us that what they focus on is attacking a procedure that is commonly performed, and has been proven to be utterly safe,” says Lori Carpentier, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan President & CEO. “This sort of hyperbolic language is meant to incite people's emotion when, in fact, what they're really trying to do is make abortion more generally less accessible for everyone. And they know that this is the only way that's going to work in Michigan, because 77% of Michiganders agree that abortion ought to be safe and accessible.” 


Carpentier says the petition’s failure is a reflection of that consensus. 


“The impact [of the petition, if it passed] would have that one more time, Right to life of Michigan would have bypassed the regular desire of the people of Michigan, and inserted themselves in between physicians and patients, to do what would have been right and an entirely legal procedure. And so this is absolutely a victory for the people of Michigan who may be choosing to end a pregnancy.”


In a statement released Tuesday, a Right to Life of Michigan spokesperson says that rather than challenging the Bureau’s count, “we will be focusing on the critical 2020 elections moving forward.”


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Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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