Group will submit 2022 proposals for protecting abortion access in the Michigan Constitution

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Abortion rights activists dress up as characters from The Handmaid's Tale at a Lansing protest.  - PHIL LOWE / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

  • Phil Lowe / Shutterstock.com
  • Abortion rights activists dress up as characters from The waitress’ story at a Lansing protest.

A coalition of abortion rights groups hopes to anchor the right to reproductive freedom in Michigan by amending the state constitution.

The Voting Committee, Reproductive Freedom for All, a coalition of Planned Parenthood of Michigan, the ACLU of Michigan, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan and Michigan Voices, submitted paperwork Friday morning to the Board of State Canvassers to hold a poll to protect reproductive freedom, including access to abortion before voters at the November election.

This proposal would amend Michigan’s Constitution to explicitly affirm Michigander’s right to make and execute decisions regarding pregnancy, including abortion, contraception, prenatal care, and childbirth.

“We are examining a ballot paper that will preserve every individual’s constitutional right to make the very personal decision on reproductive health care, including abortion, and to keep those decisions between the individual and their physician. We all have the right to determine our own future,” he said. Nicole Wells Stallworth, CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan.

The amendment would also prohibit criminal punishment for abortion, stillbirth or abortion.

This is happening at a time when access to abortion is on shaky ground at the federal level and Michigan has no constitutional protection in place.

The Supreme Court, which is considered to have its most right-wing composition for decades, agreed to hear arguments last month about a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks. Depending on how the court rules in the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Supreme Court judgment of 1973 in Roe v. Wade, that declared abortion for a constitutional right could be overturned.

If Roe being overturned, a 1931 Michigan law criminalizing abortions will come into force.

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“This is something that has been very visible. It’s something that Americans and Michigan residents are all aware of,” Wells Stallworth said. at the 2022 election. ”

In September, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called on the GOP-led Legislative Assembly to repeal the 90-year-old law, but Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) said Senate Republicans “will not relinquish this fundamental duty to protect the sanctity of life. . ”

According to research from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, nearly 2.2 million Michigan residents could lose access to abortion if Roe is overturned.

A August 2020 poll conducted by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling showed that 77% of voters in Michigan agree that any decision on pregnancy should be made by the woman.

Because the coalition seeks to create a constitutional amendment rather than a statute, it avoids the risk of being adopted and later amended by the Republican-led Legislative Assembly. That was what happened with the 2018 proposal to increase the minimum wage and demand sick leave.

If the Reproductive Rights Initiative receives the required 425,059 signatures – 10% of the total number of votes cast in the 2018 gubernatorial election – it will go directly to the polls so voters can decide.

“We believe it is something far more lasting, a constitutional amendment. It is not so easy to turn around… and a constitutional amendment is not necessarily subject to the one in power in the Michigan legislature or even in the executive branch of government, ”said Wells Stallworth.

A similar initiative in Vermont has been in the works and is ready to be on this state’s ballot in November.

Wells Stallworth said the amendment aims to lift Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban, while ensuring Michigan residents retain the constitutional right to an abortion they have had for nearly 50 years.

“That’s why we wanted to make sure the language was as broad as it could possibly be, so it’s all-encompassing of a person’s reproductive rights,” she added.

The proposal would also invalidate current, medically unnecessary abortion restrictions, including:

  • Legislation only for physicians who only allow licensed physicians to provide abortion care
  • Targeted regulation of abortion providers’ laws (TRAP), which specifies the types of clinics that are authorized to perform abortions, and specific rules on the structural standards of facilities and procedure room sizes
  • Public and private insurance bans that prevent insurance companies from covering abortions unless individuals purchase a supplementary policy

That Jerk asked Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson in an interview in August 2019 whether the organization was examining a ballot. McGill Johnson said at the time that they were “trying to figure out what is the most viable thing that would reflect the will of the people of Michigan.”

Since 2019, two abortion restrictions have not taken effect in Michigan, including Right to Life of Michigan’s petition to ban the rare dilatation and evacuation (D&E) abortion procedure and the Michigan Heartbeat Coalition’s efforts to ban abortions at the first sign of cardiac activity.

The coalition’s next step is to seek the Board of State Canvas’s review and approval of a draft summary before beginning to collect signatures.

Originally released Friday, January 7 by Michigan Advance. It is republished here with permission.

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