Michigan voters to decide future of abortion care after high court approves ballot proposal

Michigan Supreme Court certifies proposal for Nov. ballot after board declined to do so

FILE - Elder Leslie Mathews, an organizer with Michigan United, joins Leaders of the Reproductive Freedom for All campaign as they speak to supporters on July 11, 2022, in Lansing Mich., after turning in 753,759 signatures to qualify for Michigan's November ballot. (AP Photo/Joey Cappelletti, File) (Joey Cappelletti, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Supreme Court announced Thursday that the abortion rights ballot proposal that acquired and submitted more than 700,000 signatures will appear before voters in November, a decision made after a state board declined to certify the proposal.

The court voted 5-2 to place the proposal on the ballot for the 2022 Michigan General Election.

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers deadlocked during a vote last week over whether to certify the Reproductive Freedom for All ballot initiative to appear on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. The Michigan Bureau of Elections, which thoroughly reviews petition signatures to determine their validity, recommended to the board that the proposal should be certified for the ballot. More than 500,000 of the petition signatures were deemed valid by the bureau.

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But the Board of State Canvassers does not always follow the bureau’s recommendations.

On Aug. 31, the board’s two Democratic members voted in favor of certifying the proposal, while the two Republican members voted against certification.

More: Abortion proposal returns spotlight to obscure Michigan board

Proponents appealed the board’s decision to the Michigan Supreme Court in an effort to get the proposal on the ballot for Michigan voters in the fall. The state’s high court announced Thursday its decision to allow the proposal to appear on the ballot.

The November ballot must be finalized by Friday, Sept. 9.

The Reproductive Freedom for All ballot proposal -- backed by the Michigan ACLU, Planned Parenthood of Michigan and Michigan Voices -- was required to submit 425,059 valid signatures to qualify to appear on the Nov. 8, 2022, ballot. The proposal seeks to amend the Michigan Constitution to affirm 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.”

Specifically, the measure would “ensure that all Michiganders have the right to safe and respectful care during birthing, everyone has the right to use temporary or permanent birth control, everyone has the right to continue or end a pregnancy pre-viability, and no one can be punished for having a miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion.”

Board Chair Tony Daunt, a Republican, clarified during the Aug. 30 meeting that the board’s role was solely to determine if the proposal signatures submitted are legitimate.

“We’re not here to talk about the issue of abortion, we’re here to determine the validity of signatures in the form of the petitions as they have been submitted,” Daunt said. “ ... We’re not here to talk about the issue of abortion, whether it’s right or wrong.”

Anti-abortion groups have been challenging the proposal in an effort to help disqualify it for the general election ballot.

Following the recent overturning of the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which protected the right to abortion care nationwide for decades, individual states are now responsible for regulating abortion care within their jurisdiction. In Michigan, a 1931 law on the books bans nearly all abortion care in the state and declares such care felonious. However, several ongoing lawsuits in several Michigan courts have, for now, blocked enforcement of that ban.

If abortion care became legal under the Michigan Constitution, this law would supersede related prior court rulings -- a win for supporters who say the legal confusion surrounding abortion care rights in the state is having a significant, negative impact on abortion care providers and patients.

Related: Michigan judge declares 1931 law banning abortions ‘unconstitutional’ in final ruling

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.