Since the Supreme Court’s conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade in June, many state legislatures across the country have started restricting or outright outlawing abortion. In Michigan, the 1931 abortion ban that was blocked by the courts has been ruled unconstitutional. State Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher ruled on Wednesday, September 7th, that the Michigan Constitution’s due process clause is broad enough to include a woman’s right to an abortion. The ban would have made almost all abortions a felony, with penalties of up to four years in prison for both doctors and pregnant people who use medication for self-abortions.
Abortion access has become a major deciding factor for many voters in this November’s elections whether they will vote for Republican or Democratic candidates. One major choice for voters is the governor’s race between Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer and Trump-endorsed Republican challenger Tudor Dixon. Whitmer has been an abortion rights advocate while in office, and has been involved in the legal battles to keep abortion legal in the state since the reversal of Roe back in June. Tudor Dixon supports a near-total ban on abortion, believes the only exception should be to save the life of the pregnant individual, and supported the 1931 abortion ban.
In the secretary of state race, the candidates are Democratic incumbent Jocelyn Benson and another Trump-endorsed Republican, Kristina Karamo, who has run on a platform of denying Michigan’s election integrity. Benson has been an abortion rights advocate while in office, while Karamo has stated on video: “I’m pro-life from conception to natural death and that’s the reason I got into politics is to fight against abortion.”
In the attorney general’s race, the candidates are Democratic incumbent Dana Nessel and Trump-endorsed Republican challenger Matthew DePerno. According to reporting from Bridge Michigan, Nessel would not have enforced the 1931 ban and supports reproductive health care access in the state. She has also shared her own personal story of how the access to an abortion positively impacted her family life. DePerno said he would have enforced the 1931 ban and opposes all exceptions to abortion including rape, incest, and to save the mother’s life.
Another angle to ensure access to abortion remains legal is the citizen-led ballot initiative by Reproductive Freedom for All. Their petition filed with a record number of signatures (more than 750,000 signatures) and turned in at least 596,379 valid ones, an amount that exceeds the state mandated 425,059 signature threshold by more than 150,000. The aim of the measure is to enshrine and expand abortion rights into the Michigan Constitution. However, a coalition of anti-abortion groups filed a challenge to the measure alleging errors that mainly consisted of spacing issues which they claimed should have resulted in the measure being disqualified from being on the ballot.
The Michigan Board of State Canvassers took the case and were deadlocked on a 2-2 split vote along party lines. Democratic members Mary Ellen Gurewitz and Jeannette Bradshaw voted to place the constitutional amendment on the November ballot, while Republican members Anthony Daunt and Richard Houskamp rejected it. This has become a notable trend where Republican officials or judges in various states block citizen-led ballot measures on technical grounds. The organizers behind the constitutional proposal argued that the two GOP canvassers tried to disenfranchise nearly three quarters of a million voters who signed the abortion petition.
They took their case to the Michigan Supreme Court who ruled on Thursday September 8th that the proposal should be allowed on the November 8th ballot. Not only would the right to an abortion be on the ballot but two other constituional amendments including the expansion of voting rights, and a set 12-year term limits for lawmakers to serve in the Michigan Legislature along with stricter financial disclosure rules to state elected officials will be decided on by the voters. What will become of abortion rights in Michigan will now depend heavily on how residents vote in November.