Planned Parenthood president: ‘We’re leaving no stone unturned’ before Tuesday’s election

By: - November 5, 2022 5:23 pm

Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, speaking to a group during a Yes on Prop 3 rally in Grand Rapids on Nov. 5, 2022 | Allison R. Donahue

“Health care is not a partisan issue,” said Jeff Timmer, a longtime Republican strategist during a Yes on Proposal 3 rally Saturday in Grand Rapids. 

With just days before the Tuesday election, that is the message advocates for the ballot proposal to codify Roe-era abortion rights in the Michigan Constitution are trying to spread to voters who may be torn between their political party and their beliefs on abortion.

Jeff Timmer, longtime Republican strategist, speaking to a group during a Yes on Prop 3 rally in Grand Rapids on Nov. 5, 2022 | Allison R. Donahue

“It was just a few short years ago that I was advising the very people in the groups who are opposing Proposal 3 today. Those people are deliberately lying about what Proposal 3 will do to create fear among voters,” Timmer said. “And I know that because I sat in the room and helped them create messages like this and campaigns like this in the past. I know the strategy, I know the tactics and I know exactly what they’re doing.”

Michigan currently has a 1931 law criminalizing abortion, with no exceptions for rape, incest and the mother’s health, that could have gone into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade. That law is temporarily blocked amid lawsuits from both Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Planned Parenthood of Michigan. 

In July, the Reproductive Freedom for All (RFFA) coalition, which 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, submitted a record-breaking 730,000 signatures to get on the ballot.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said that energy has carried on over the past four months, especially after voters in Kansas voted down in August an amendment to the state’s constitution that would allow state lawmakers to restrict or ban abortions. 

“People are excited that Election Day is finally here because we haven’t had an opportunity like they’ve had in Kansas,” said McGill Johnson in an interview with the Advance. “But it has definitely come at a cost. We’re trying to make sure we’re leaving no stone unturned, no voter untouched.”

Opponents, which include the Michigan Catholic Conference and Right to Life of Michigan, claim that Proposal 3 would repeal current parental consent laws around abortion or allow minors to go through gender-reaffirming surgeries without their parents’ consent. Experts have disputed the claim, and Proposal 3 advocates say that it will just restore abortion rights in Michigan before the Supreme Court ruled in Roe

“I think what is deeply disturbing to me about the opposition is that they are engaging in incredibly anti-democratic forms, using misinformation to talk about the ways in which Prop 3 doesn’t do what we believe it will,” said McGill Johnson.

Nicole Wells Stallworth, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, said that a big part of their job on the campaign has been dispelling misinformation about the proposal. 

“We just want to make sure that anybody who needs the information to demystify Proposal 3 has it. And we’re working really hard to do that,” said Wells Stallworth. 

 

McGill Johnson said anti-Proposal 3 groups, like Right to Life of Michigan or the Catholic Conference, have been “playing the long game.”

According to data from AdImpact released last month, Proposal 3 opponents were estimated to spend more than double on TV ads before Election Day than groups in support of Proposal 3.

Despite most attacks coming from the right, McGill Johnson said this “isn’t a partisan issue or an issue that affects one demographic.”

A few protesters gathered outside, purporting to be progressives against Proposal 3.

McGill Johnson and Wells Stallworth both talked about the challenges women, especially Black women, will face under the state’s 91-year-old abortion ban — like an estimated  24% increase in maternal death rate in Michigan. 

If abortion is banned nationwide, the overall number of maternal deaths is expected to rise by 24%. For Black women, maternal death rates nationwide are estimated to rise by 39% with a federal ban.

“Maternal death is preventable,” said Wells Stallworth. “That is in part why Proposal 3 is so important. Because Black women, as all women, deserve to be able to have the right to reproductive freedom to make and carry out their own birthing decisions.”

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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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