Jun 29, 2022 - News

Ballot initiative moves to forefront of Michigan's abortion fight

Abortion advocates march through downtown with chants calling for the end to the 1931 abortion ban.
Abortion advocates marching through downtown over the weekend. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios

Abortion rights in Michigan may come down to the ballot.

Why it matters: Uncertainty remains about the impending legality of abortion care in Michigan following the reversal of Roe v. Wade and an injunction against the state's long-dormant 1931 abortion ban.

  • Nearly 30,000 abortions were performed statewide in 2020, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

State of play: Michiganders have two opportunities to undo the 1931 law: ongoing lawsuits from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Planned Parenthood, plus the Reproductive Freedom For All ballot initiative, which needs 425,059 signatures by July 11 to make the Nov. 2 ballot.

  • Before the ballot, though, "Michigan could see potentially a period of time in which there is no injunction against the 1931 law," Bonsitu Kitaba, deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, tells Axios.

Details: The ballot proposal would nullify the 1931 law and amend the state constitution to guarantee personal rights to pregnancy, contraception, sterilization, abortion, miscarriage management and infertility.

The intrigue: Reproductive Freedom For All, which the ACLU has partnered with for the proposal, tweeted on Friday evening that it raised more than $100,000 within hours of the Supreme Court decision.

What they're saying: "We're over the minimum [signature] threshold but have to keep the momentum up through the next week," ACLU policy strategist Merissa Kovach tells Axios. "We are on track and feeling confident but have to keep collecting."

  • On Monday, a volunteer circulator for the group, Yvonne Wyborny, collected signatures outside a Redford Secretary of State branch. "If I can explain it clear enough when somebody passes by, young women will literally grab the clipboard out of my hands to sign it because this is just so critical," she says.

What we're watching: Gov. Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel have reiterated the court injunction is currently keeping statewide abortion legal.

  • Whitmer issued a new filing Monday asking the Supreme Court for immediate intervention, citing contradictory statements from the Beaumont Health medical system and suggestions from two county prosecutors that they would enforce the 1931 law.
  • "We are ready to file contempt proceedings against any county prosecutor who seeks to enforce the 1931 law. There's no reason for anyone to be prosecuted," Kitaba said.
Drone shot of protestors marching up Cass Avenue
Protestors march on Cass Avenue downtown Tuesday. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios
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