Abortion ban fails in Michigan 

Group didn’t submit enough valid petition signatures

By: - July 21, 2020 10:38 am

Fadwa Ashur, an Ann Arbor resident who attends Eastern Michigan University, participated in the pro-choice rally | Ken Coleman photo

Right to Life of Michigan announced Tuesday that it is ending a petition drive to ban the dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion procedure after the Michigan Bureau of Elections (BOE) said the petition did not have enough valid signatures.

“Instead of focusing on court challenges regarding the counting process, we will be focusing on the critical 2020 elections moving forward,” Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing said in a statement.

The bureau recommended that the Board of State Canvassers deny the petition after it fell short of the 340,047 required signatures.

In June, the BOE reviewed a 500-signature sample and found Michigan Values Life, a coalition of anti-abortion groups, including Right to Life, fell over 7,000 signatures short of the 340,047 required signatures. However, the Board of State Canvassers voted to let the group pull a larger sample of 1,000 additional signatures.

Anti-abortion group given 2nd chance for petition

“Our volunteers did an excellent job, but the bulk of the errors were things beyond our control, specifically people not knowing their voter registration status or forgetting they already signed the petition,” Listing said.

Listing said the group’s largest hurdle was the large voter turnout in 2018 in Michigan, which bumped the amount of signatures needed for petition drives. Prior to this, groups needed to submit 252,523 valid signatures for a petition to get on the ballot or be adopted by the Legislature.

“That record-breaking turnout forced Right to Life to have to collect signatures in proportion to the number of Michigan voters who actually agree with their agenda; unsurprisingly, it proved to be impossible to do that and meet the minimum number of signatures required to be certified,” said Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan President and CEO Lori Carpentier.

The initiative was similar to legislation that passed the GOP-controlled Legislature in May 2019. After Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer threatened to veto it, anti-abortion groups decided to pursue a ballot initiative, as it’s previously done, like the so-called “rape insurance” law that bars insurance companies from covering abortion in standard policies.

Republicans pass abortion ban on Right to Life lobby day


Under Michigan law, the governor cannot veto citizen-initiated petitions that are adopted by the Legislature, so that was a way to ensure that Whitmer couldn’t quash the anti-abortion measure. 

The Committee to Protect Access to Care (CPAC), formed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, challenged the petition in June and again in July after reviewing the second sample and argued the group did not have enough valid signatures. 

“Today is a victory for every doctor and every patient in Michigan, and for every person who’s been forced to endure traumatic procedures because bad laws enacted by Right to Life-backed politicians demanded it. No more. The days of Right to Life dictating medical care in Michigan are over, and we couldn’t be happier to be the ones to say it,” Carpentier said.

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.