Abortion rights group wants changes to the 100-word summary of its proposal on the ballot

The Board of State Canvassers is slated to vote Wednesday on putting the measure before voters

By: - August 30, 2022 12:19 pm

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

The Reproductive Freedom for All (RFFA) campaign is taking issue with the proposed summary of its constitutional amendment that would appear on the ballot Nov. 8. 

Last week, Director of Elections Jonathan Brater drafted proposed language for the 100-word summary that says the proposal would “invalidate all state laws that conflict with this amendment.” RFFA argues the initiative aiming to enshrine reproductive health and abortion care into the Michigan Consitution does not invalidate all conflicting laws. 

This is one of the issues the Board of State Canvassers will have to weigh during its meeting Wednesday morning in Lansing.

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

Here is the language Brater proposed to be on the ballot in November:

“A proposal to amend the state constitution to establish new individual right to reproductive freedom, including right to make all decisions about pregnancy; allow state to prohibit abortion in some cases; and forbid prosecution of individuals exercising established right This proposed constitutional amendment would:

  • Establish new individual right to reproductive freedom, including right to make and carry out all decisions about pregnancy, such as prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion, miscarriage management, and infertility; 
  • Allow state to prohibit abortion after fetal viability unless needed to protect a patient’s life or physical or mental health; 
  • Forbid state discrimination in enforcement of this right; prohibit prosecution of an individual, or a person helping a pregnant individual, for exercising rights established by this amendment; and invalidate all state laws that conflict with this amendment. 

Should this proposal be adopted?”

In a letter to Brater last week, Steve Liedel, an attorney representing the RFFA campaign, asked that the language be changed to say it would “prevent enforcement of laws conflicting with this amendment.”

This line would replace the line in Brater’s proposal that states it would “invalidate all state laws that conflict with this amendment.”

“Nothing in the text of the proposed constitutional amendment itself actually invalidates other laws,” Liedel wrote. “Instead, if adopted, the constitutional amendment may restrict executive officials from enforcing other laws or portions of laws.”

Liedel goes on to say that it would have to be determined by the courts if the amendment restricts or prevents enforcement of an already established law. 

RFRA submitted a record number of signatures to get on the ballot. The Bureau of Elections recommended Thursday that the Board of State Canvassers certify the Reproductive Freedom for All proposal. However, opponents of the measure have challenged it for a spacing issue, which the board will have to consider.

The Board of State Canvassers is set to vote Wednesday whether or not to place the measure on the ballot. The board also is set to consider the proposal 100-word summary language. The panel is split 2-2 between Democrats and Republicans.

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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.