Michigan will vote on adding abortion right to state constitution, court rules

The amendment, if passed, would establish a "right to reproductive freedom."

September 8, 2022, 6:57 PM

Michigan voters will decide in November whether to codify abortion rights in the state's constitution after the Michigan Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of adding a proposed amendment to the ballot.

The initiative, if passed, would amend Michigan's constitution to establish "a fundamental individual right to reproductive freedom" that includes abortion access, contraception, miscarriage management and more.

The amendment would also allow allow the state to regulate abortion after fetal viability "provided that in no circumstance shall the state prohibit an abortion that, in the professional judgement of an attending health care professional, is medically indicated to protect the life of physical or mental health of the pregnant individual."

The court's ruling comes one day before the deadline for completing the ballot for this fall's elections -- and just a day after a Michigan Court of Claims judge ruled that the state's 1931 abortion ban violates the state constitution.

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers had earlier deadlocked on whether the ballot initiative should move forward, leading to the appeal before the state's high court.

The two Republicans on the state board cited formatting and spacing issues in the initiative's text as reasons not to approve the proposal.

Five of the seven justices on the Michigan Supreme Court criticized that reasoning in their 23-page ruling on Thursday.

A volunteer wears pins as she gathers signatures for a proposed abortion amendment at Ferndale Pride in Ferndale, Mich., June 4, 2022.
Emily Elconin/Reuters, FILE

"Seven hundred fifty three thousand and seven hundred fifty nine Michiganders signed this proposal—more than have ever signed any proposal in Michigan's history," wrote Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack, a Democratic-nominated judge. "The challengers have not produced a single signer who claims to have been confused by the limited-spacing sections in the full text portion of the proposal."

"They would disenfranchise millions of Michiganders not because they believe the many thousands of Michiganders who signed the proposal were confused by it, but because they think they have identified a technicality that allows them to do so, a game of gotcha gone very bad," McCormack continued. "What a sad marker of the times."

Reproductive Freedom for All, the group behind the ballot initiative, said Thursday that they were "glad that the Court affirmed the will of the people."

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Brian Zahra, a Republican nominee, said he had "doubts that the form and content of the petition comply with Michigan law."

Abortion rights has become a major issue in the lead up to the midterm elections after the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling legalizing abortion nationwide for the past 50 years.

Democrats celebrated a win on the issue during the primary elections in Kansas, when voters in the traditionally conservative state overwhelmingly rejected a measure to remove the right to abortion from the state constitution.

Four other states -- California, Kentucky, Montana and Vermont -- will have abortion-related initiatives on the ballot before voters in November.

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