Ballot petition seeks to add abortion rights to Michigan constitution

click to enlarge Pro-choice protesters in Lansing dressed as characters from The Handmaid's Tale. - RACHEL GOODHEW / SHUTTERSTOCK
Rachel Goodhew / Shutterstock
Pro-choice protesters in Lansing dressed as characters from The Handmaid's Tale.

A coalition of advocates for reproductive freedom has filed a ballot proposal to affirm that every Michigan resident will have reproductive rights, free from government interference. That includes the right to an abortion, birth control, prenatal care. and care when giving birth.

As a Supreme Court decision looms on Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that established a person's right to an abortion, Merissa Kovach, a policy strategist for the ACLU of Michigan, said it's important that all Michiganders are protected regardless of the outcome. She noted that the state has a law on the books criminalizing virtually all abortions, but it's been dormant since the Roe decision.

"If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade or puts enough of a dent in it, that means abortion in Michigan could very well be illegal," she said. "So, we need to do everything possible and use every single tool in our toolshed to ensure that that doesn't happen."

More than two-thirds of Michigan voters have said they want the Supreme Court to uphold Roe, and think Michigan should repeal its 1931 law banning abortion, in the latest poll from the Detroit News and WDIV-TV. In the same survey, almost one in five voters said they believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

Bonsitu Kitaba, ACLU of Michigan's deputy legal director, said it's important that the effort is a ballot measure for a constitutional amendment instead of legislation. She explained that the Legislature can't reverse an amendment passed by voters; the only way to change it would be another constitutional amendment. Kitaba said she thinks politicians shouldn't be able to make decisions about their constituents' bodies.

"This constitutional amendment would pave the way for greater access and greater autonomy for people to make decisions, and those decisions to be respected in their health-care choices," she said.

To get a petition onto the ballot, the campaign has to collect more than 425,000 signatures. Other groups in support include
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan and Michigan Voices.

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