GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Advocates of abortion rights are trying to put the matter on the ballot in Michigan this November.
A petition to ensure abortion is legal in Michigan, supported by groups like ACLU Michigan and Planned Parenthood, needs 425,000 signatures by July 11 to make the ballot in the fall.
“For anyone who woke up this morning feeling really hopeless, feeling really scared, we have something very tangible voters can do,” ACLU Michigan policy strategist Merissa Kovach said.
Kovach called the petition a “first-of-its-kind” initiative that has a real shot of moving forward.
“What this ballot initiative also does, which is incredibly important, is it would solidify these rights in our state constitution so that the right to abortion is settled once and for all,” Kovach said.
If the question goes to voters, it may have enough support to pass. An EPIC-MRA poll from January showed 56% of Michiganders supported abortion rights, 34% opposed abortion rights and 10% were undecided or refused to answer.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, as suggested in a U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion that leaked Monday night, Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban would take effect again.
“The ruling in the leaked document would uphold the right to life for unborn children in this country and I hope the final ruling will confirm that. This would be an incredible victory for everyone who has worked hard to protect the unborn, including millions of women across America who are united in opposition to abortion.”U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Middleville
The ballot effort comes after a pro-abortion rights bill pushed by Democrats failed to gain traction in the state Legislature. State Rep. Laurie Pohutsky of Livonia introduced the Reproductive Health Act, House Bill 5542, in November.
“It would repeal the existing and imminent threat of that 1931 law but also go further to make sure people can access abortion care safely and legally,” Pohutsky told News 8.
With Republicans controlling both chambers of the Legislature, the bill hasn’t gotten a hearing in committee. In a statement to News 8, state Sen. Aric Nesbitt from Lawton said Republicans aren’t going to pass “radical abortion on-demand legislation or taxpayer-funding of abortions.”
“We need to focus on life-affirming options like supporting struggling moms and adoption,” Nesbitt added.
With her legislation stalled, Pohutsky is now placing her hopes on the ballot initiative.
“I think that it is probably one of the best shots that we have,” she said. “I think that it’s very important to be realistic. I would love to say that my bill is going to be what solves this, but I think we need to focus our efforts on the constitutional amendment.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also filed a lawsuit on April 7, asking the Michigan Supreme Court to confirm abortion rights in the state’s constitution and stop enforcing the 1931 ban.
“For 49 years women have had the legal right and agency over their bodies to make their own healthcare decisions. And the fact of the matter is 70% of the people support that, recognize how important that’s been,” Whitmer told News 8 on Tuesday. “(That’s why) we took the leadership of moving forward and filing a lawsuit to protect this constitutional right and take it straight to our state’s Supreme Court.
“These are unique tools that I have as governor of Michigan, but I’m going to fight like hell to protect these rights because this is something that is so fundamental to being an America, to being a real citizen with full agency over our bodies, and I’m fighting for every woman of child-bearing years, for every family who exercises these rights of autonomy and agency and healthcare.”
Also on April 7, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit to block the ban. It is also pushing the effort to put abortion on the ballot.
“We have seen success in other statewide ballot initiatives for progressive issues,” Ashlea Phenicie, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, told News 8.