Advance Notice: Briefs

State board approves language for 2 anti-abortion ballot measures

By: - June 19, 2019 1:06 pm

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

Updated, 2:27 p.m. with comments from Planned Parenthood

The Board of State Canvassers approved on Wednesday language for two petitions that would severely restrict abortion procedures in the state.

The first, brought by the anti-abortion Michigan Heartbeat Coalition, would ban abortions as soon as “cardiac activity” is detected, usually within six to eight weeks. The second, brought by Right to Life of Michigan, would ban the abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation (D&E).

The two petition drives come after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has promised to veto any bills passed that restricts abortion access. Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed legislation that would ban dilation and evacuation, a standard procedure performed in the second trimester.

Republicans pass abortion ban on Right to Life lobby day

Just over 340,000 signatures are needed to get the two initiatives before the Legislature, which is expected to adopt them if that occurs. Under Michigan law, the Legislature can do so without the governor’s approval.

In a statement, Right to Life Michigan’s president Barbara Listing said the petition is mostly identical to the Republican-passed legislation from May — with a key addition that would allow the Legislature to legally intervene if Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel chooses not to enforce such a ban.

The two anti-abortion groups quarreled with Democrats on the Board of Canvassers about language in both petitions, according to a report from the Detroit Free Press. The Michigan Heartbeat Coalition’s description of a “fetal heartbeat” was revised to the more medically accurate “cardiac activity” language.

The Free Press also reported that board members objected to Michigan Right to Life’s description of dilation and evacuation as “dismemberment abortion,” an inaccurate term according to doctors and medical experts, but that they ultimately relented.

Pro-choice rally pushes back against abortion bans

Amanda West, director of government relations for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, said that “while concerns remain on both initiatives’ 100 word summaries, we’ve seen important improvements to both through this process. Voters in Michigan deserve the truth about these policies, especially when they leave dramatic impacts on their health.”*

In May, former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards appeared at a rally in Ann Arbor alongside pro-choice Michigan politicians who voiced their opposition to the proposed initiatives, as well as similar efforts across the country.

The two petition drives follow successful pushes to restrict abortion in states like Georgia, Alabama and Ohio, seen as part of a larger effort to force the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its decision that legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade.

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Derek Robertson
Derek Robertson

Derek Robertson is a former reporter for the Advance. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.