Reproductive rights ballot initiative turns in record-breaking number of signatures
The petition campaign to enshrine abortion rights in the Michigan Constitution turned in signed petitions on Monday to put the question on the November ballot. Organizers say an amendment would end any uncertainty in Michigan on whether abortion is legal in the state, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Six pallets of boxes were delivered to the front steps of the state Bureau of Elections, where they were unloaded and carried inside to be checked in. The group then adjourned to the nearby Lansing Center to savor the moment and fire up their coalition for what’s next.
“Stand up! Fight back! Stand up! Fight back!”
The goal of the Reproductive Freedom for All campaign is to have voters adopt the constitutional amendment to override a 1931 state law that bans abortion in Michigan except to save the life of a pregnant person. That law is currently on hold under an order issued by a Michigan Court of Claims judge.
But Nicole Wells Stallworth of Planned Parenthood of Michigan said that could change if a higher court makes a different ruling.
“Without this amendment, we don’t know. There’s a question mark as to what our rights will look like, and this is our opportunity to define for ourselves what our sexual and reproductive health rights will be long into the future,” Stallworth said.
The campaign includes Planned Parenthood, the ACLU of Michigan and several other abortion rights organizations. The group says it has turned in 753,759 signatures of registered voters and it’s gone the extra mile to check and scrub its petitions of invalid signatures. It takes 425,059 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
Stallworth said the campaign turned in hundreds of thousands of extra signatures to show the amendment’s wide appeal and, they hope, to pretty much guarantee it will make the ballot.
“This is our opportunity to establish and affirm that people in Michigan will have the right to make and carry out their own reproductive health care decisions and that those decisions will be held between themselves and their medical doctor,” Stallworth said.
The next step is for state Bureau of Elections workers to check for duplicate signatures and to make sure only registered voters’ names are being counted toward the final tally. There will also be an opportunity for opponents of the amendment campaign to challenge signatures before petitions can be certified by a state elections board.
Christen Pollo is with Citizens to Support Michigan Women and Children, a coalition that includes Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference.
“We have a responsibility to make sure that if this is going to be on the ballot that it has a right to be on the ballot. They need to submit the right number of signatures. They need to submit valid signatures. And we want to be part of making sure that happens,” Pollo said.
Pollo said the coalition is also ramping up a vote-no campaign with an eye toward November that will argue the reproductive rights amendment could also sweep away abortion restrictions, including a ban on Medicaid-funded abortions and Michigan’s parental consent abortion law.
“We continue to educate Michiganders and will continue to educate Michiganders on what is actually included in this can-of-worms anything-goes abortion amendment,” said Pollo.
The reproductive rights campaign is one of two that just submitted petition signatures. There is also another proposed amendment to expand voting rights in the state Constitution to allow early in-person voting, free postage for absentee voting, and to allow voters to sign an affidavit of identity if they show up at the polls without a picture ID.
The Reproductive Freedom For All campaign's ballot initiative turned in a total of 753,759 signatures to the Michigan Secretary of State Monday morning.
In order to qualify for the ballot, initiatives need 425,059 valid signatures from registered Michigan voters. The signatures collected came from every county in the state.
According to the Reproductive Freedom for All campaign, more than 62,000 people signed up to support the initiative and collect signatures. About 30,000 of those volunteers joined the effort following the leaked draft of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in May.
The ballot measure aims to preserve abortion access and reproductive health decisions like birth control, birth and pregnancy care in the Michigan Constitution.
“Supporters from every corner of this state, from every walk of life, are signing up to volunteer, donate, and share their stories to ensure politicians can’t interfere in our most personal medical decisions,” Northland Family Planning Executive Director and Reproductive Freedom for All Volunteer Renee Chelian said in a statement.
“That momentum will power us toward victory in November. Every day in every way, we’ll stop at nothing to make sure people have access to the essential health care they deserve to control their bodies and build their futures.”
Here is the language that would be added to the Michigan Constitution:
Article 1, Section 28 Right to Reproductive Freedom
(1) Every individual has a fundamental right to reproductive freedom, which entails the right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy, including but not limited to prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care. An individual's right to reproductive freedom shall not be denied,burdened, nor infringed upon unless justified by a compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive means. Notwithstanding the above, the state may regulate the provision of abortion care after fetalviability, provided that in no circumstance shall the state prohibit anabortion that, in the professional judgment of an attending health careprofessional, is medically indicated to protect the life or physical ormental health of the pregnant individual.
(2) The state shall not discriminate in the protection or enforcement of this fundamental right.
(3) The state shall not penalize, prosecute, or otherwise take adverse action against an individual based on their actual, potential, perceived, or alleged pregnancy outcomes, including but not limited to miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion, nor shall the state penalize, prosecute, or otherwise take adverse action against someone for aiding or assisting a pregnant individual in exercising their right to reproductive freedom with their voluntary consent.
(4) For the purposes of this section:
A state interest is "compelling" only if it is for the limited purpose of protecting the health of an individual seeking care, consistent with accepted clinical standards of practice and evidence-based medicine, and does not infringe on that individual's autonomous decision-making.
"Fetal viability" means: the point in pregnancy when, in the professional judgment of an attending health care professional and based
on the particular facts of the case, there is a significant likelihood of the fetus's sustained survival outside the uterus without the application of extraordinary medical measures.
(5) This section shall be self-executing. Any provision of this section held invalid shall be severable from the remaining portionsof this section.
Last week, an anti-abortion rights coalition announced it's opposition to the ballot initiative. The Citizens to Support Michigan Women and Children coalition, a group made of of Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference, says the language used in the proposal is too broad and does not protect women
against bad actors who perform abortions.