Updated: Abortion rights coalition files record-breaking number of signatures to get on Nov. ballot

By: - July 11, 2022 6:48 am

People line up to sign the Reproductive Freedom for All ballot measure petition at the abortion rights protest in Ann Arbor, May 14, 2022 | Angela Demas

Updated with additional comments, 12:36 p.m. and 2:42 p.m., 7/11/22

The Reproductive Freedom for All (RFFA) ballot initiative made history Monday when it filed 753,759 signatures to enshrine abortion access in Michigan’s Constitution, breaking the record number of signatures gathered for a ballot initiative in the state.

“The vast majority of Michiganders know that abortion is healthcare: Michigan is on the right side of history as we lead the way with Reproductive Freedom for All and intend to ask Michigan voters on November 8 to protect abortion and reproductive rights in Michigan,” said ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Loren Khogali. “We will not allow forced pregnancy in our state, nor will we stand by as the devastating impacts of a post-Roe world disproportionately impact people of color, LGBTQ+ communities, young people, low-income people, and those living in rural areas. This is your body, your ballot, your choice.” 

The coalition said during a Monday morning press conference that they have collected 911,000 signatures, but are submitting just over 750,000. 

The initiative surpassed the required number of signatures — 425,059, or 10% of the total votes cast in the 2018 gubernatorial election — by 328,700 of signatures. 

Michigan Reproductive Freedom For All coalition announced Monday morning that would be filing more than 750,000 signatures during a press conference on July 11, 2022 | Allison R. Donahue

The record number of signatures filed for a constitutional amendment prior to RFFA’s filing was in 2012 by the Protect Our Jobs coalition, which aimed to add the right to collective bargaining for public and private sector employees to the state Constitution, according to state records dating back to 1978 obtained by the Advance from the Secretary of State. That coalition filed 670,771 signatures and made it on the ballot, but it was shot down by 57% of the voters in November of that year.

If the Michigan Bureau of Elections and Board of State Canvassers find that RFFA filed enough valid signatures, the question will go directly to the ballot for voters to decide in the November election. 

Steve Liedel, the attorney representing the RFFA coalition, said that if the proposal is passed by voters in November, it will go into effect within 45 days after the election. 

The coalition, composed of Planned Parenthood of Michigan, the ACLU of Michigan, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan and Michigan Voices, formed in January to amend the state Constitution to protect reproductive freedom and Michiganders’ right to make and carry out decisions relating to pregnancy, including abortion, birth control, prenatal care and childbirth.

Michigan Reproductive Freedom For All coalition announced Monday morning that would be filing more than 750,000 signatures during a press conference on July 11, 2022 | Allison R. Donahue

Since Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, abortion access in Michigan has been temporarily protected by a Court of Claims injunction in a Planned Parenthood of Michigan lawsuit, blocking enforcement of the state’s 1931 abortion ban until the court makes a final decision in the case.

Coalition leaders said Monday they do not have outward support from Republican leaders in the state, but said they have heard from Republican women who support reproductive freedom.

“I don’t know what the leaders of the Republican Party will do, but I know that there are people from every party that support reproductive freedom in Michigan,” said Shanay Watson Wittaker, an RFFA spokesperson. 

In May, Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing said the Citizens to Support Michigan Women and Children coalition would “certainly consider” rolling out their own counter-ballot initiative if RFFA is able to collect enough signatures to make it on the ballot. 

When asked if Right to Life is planning to challenge these signatures or being a counter-ballot initiative, Right to Life spokesperson Genevieve Marnon said the organization is “consulting with our elections’ attorney and campaign consultants on our next steps.”

Correction: This story has been updated after the state corrected its information showing the Protect Our Jobs initiative previously held the signature record.

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers 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.

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