Bans Off Our Bodies protest in Lansing on May 3, 2022 | Allison R. Donahue
Even before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, sending the issue back to the states, abortion was a hot topic in the Michigan Legislature.
Seventy bills and three resolutions that mention abortion have been introduced in Michigan during the 2021-22 session.
Some of those bills have been introduced by Democrats to protect abortion access in Michigan, while Republicans have sponsored measures that would restrict abortion, ban most abortions and tie-bar state funding to limit abortion access.
However, abortion access bills haven’t been taken up by the GOP-led Legislature. And few anti-abortion measures have made it to the desk of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a strong supporter of abortion rights, who this year vetoed some anti-abortion language in the budget. Whitmer is up for reelection against Republican Tudor Dixon, who supports banning abortion.
But on Nov. 8, voters will have the chance to weigh in. Michiganders will vote on Proposal 3, known as Reproductive Freedom for All (RFFA), which would enshrine the right to abortion in Michigan’s Constitution.
However, state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) is making the case that the decision whether to codify abortion rights in Michigan should be decided by lawmakers, and voters should reject Proposal 3.
“There is nothing on the ballot more important than what this item is,” Shirkey said during a Protect Life Michigan webcast in July. “I would trade the governor’s race in a heartbeat right now if we could make sure that we can defeat this constitutional amendment.”
Shirkey also defended the 91-year-old abortion ban, calling it the “most unambiguous abortion-related law in the nation,” despite doctors and lawyers saying that the outdated language doesn’t hold up.
“Abortions are illegal except for the life of the mother. That’s the only exception,” Shirkey said.
Here’s the Proposal 3 language voters will see on their ballot Nov. 8: “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:
GOP anti-abortion actions
Here’s the Proposal 3 language voters will see on their ballot Nov. 8:
“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:
Michigan is one of many states with a so-called trigger law to ban abortion now that Roe has been overturned.
However, the 1931 law criminalizing abortion has been paused by a Court of Claims judge. Both Whitmer and Planned Parenthood of Michigan have challenged the law in separate suits.
The GOP-led Legislature has intervened in the Planned Parenthood case, spending $180,000 so far. Republican leaders from the House and Senate filed a request in an appellate court asking for the Court of Claims’ injunction on the state’s 1931 abortion ban law to be lifted — thus letting it go into effect.
But before the lawsuits are expected to be resolved, Michiganders will vote on Proposal 3 guaranteeing reproductive rights in the Michigan Constitution, which would supersede the 1931 ban.
A record-breaking number of Michiganders signed petitions, but anti-abortion groups tried to get the measure off the ballot.
After reviewing challenges citing a spacing error that squished together some words in the RFFA proposal language, the Board of State Canvassers deadlocked on the decision to approve the proposal. The two Republicans on the board, Richard Houskamp and Tony Daunt, rejected the proposal, until the Michigan Supreme Court weighed in and said the board had to approve it. The board did so last month.
There is nothing on the ballot more important than what this item is. I would trade the governor’s race in a heartbeat right now if we could make sure that we can defeat this constitutional amendment.
– Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake)
Polling on Proposal 3 has shown a majority of voters support it. A new poll from the Glengariff Group for the Detroit News and WDIV-TV shows 61% of voters surveyed Sept. 26 to 29 plan to vote for Proposal 3. A third of those surveyed who identify as “strong Republican” are planning to vote yes.
Here’s a look at the bills introduced this session that aim to restrict abortion access:
Measures restricting or banning abortion
House Bill 6270–6271, introduced by Reps. Steve Carra (R-Three Rivers) and Matt Maddock (R-Milford) in June before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which aims to update the state’s 1931 abortion ban to “make it enforceable post-Roe.” Under the bill, an individual who performs or attempts to perform an abortion, except to save a “pregnant woman,” will be guilty of manslaughter. The charge includes a maximum sentence of not more than 10 years in prison and a fine of no more than $100,000. The bills were referred to the Judiciary Committee.
House Bills 4737 and 4738, introduced by Reps. Julie Calley (R-Portland) and Andrew Fink (R-Hillsdale) in 2021, respectively, and Senate Bills 760 and Senate Bills 774, introduced by Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton), ban abortions if the physician is aware that the pregnant person wants the abortion because of disability, sex or race. These bills were referred to committees and did not get a hearing.
House Bill 5086, introduced by Sue Allor (R-Wolverine), also known as “The Women’s Right to Know Act,” would require doctors to provide information on the abortion pill reversal procedure (APR), require abortion providers to check for a fetal heartbeat prior to providing an abortion and disclose the likelihood of a miscarriage.
Senate Resolution 8 and House Resolution 22, introduced by Theis and Rep. Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville), calls for the enforcement of all laws regulating or limiting the practice of abortion. Both were adopted.
Other anti-abortion measures
Senate Bill 366, introduced by Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), would define a fetus at least 12 weeks old as a dependent for purposes of claiming a state income tax deduction.
House Bill 4644, introduced by Rodney Wakeman (R-Saginaw Twp.), would amend the Michigan Tax Act to give tax exemptions to a person who is 12 weeks pregnant by Dec. 31 and is under the care of a licensed physician.
House Resolution 353, introduced by Rep. Beth Griffin (R-Paw Paw), declares Oct. 15 as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day in Michigan. This resolution was introduced and adopted last week.
GOP bills limiting abortion through budget proposals
The Department of Health and Human Services budget bill, House Bill 5784, included roughly $20 million in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget, which went into effect on Sunday, for marketing and programs that promote childbirth and adoption as alternatives to abortion. It also prohibits using state funds to fund “any elective abortion.”
The Senate version of the bill (SB 828), contained language that would prohibit funding to entities providing elective abortion services, abortion counseling or abortion referrals. Subcontracts with entities that provide those services would also be blocked from receiving state funds.
House Bill 5783, introduced by Rep. Greg VanWoerkom (R-Norton Shores), the House Appropriations General Government Subcommittee chair, included $750,000 in the House budget plan for the Legislature to “defend the constitutionality of state laws.” VanWoerkom said this “may become necessary if Attorney General Dana Nessel follows through on her pledge to not enforce” the 1931 abortion ban.
When Whitmer signed the state budget in July, she vetoed a number of line items in the state education budget that tied higher education funding to anti-abortion pregnancy resource centers and research grants that prohibit funding for embryonic stem-cell research.
Last week, the GOP-led House held override votes on several of these anti-abortion measures, but failed to win enough support.
Democrats introduce bills for abortion access
Senate Bills 70–73, introduced by Sens. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills) and Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), aim to repeal the 1931 abortion ban. These bills were introduced in February 2021 — more than a year before the SCOTUS draft opinion was leaked showing the country their intention to overturn Roe, before Planned Parenthood or Whitmer filed their lawsuits and before Roe actually fell in June.
The Reproductive Health Act, Senate Bills 732–738, introduced by Geiss and Sens. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak), Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit), Brinks, Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Betty Jean Alexander (D-Detroit) and Bayer, which aims to strengthen abortion access in Michigan and repeal some of the restrictions currently in place.
After Roe was overturned, one of the first things Whitmer did was urge the Republican leadership in the Legislature to pass these bills, but no action has been taken.
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