Advance Notice: Briefs

Will Michigan have 2 abortion bans on the 2020 ballot? Probably not.

By: - May 21, 2019 12:54 pm

“Fight for our Families” rally on Dec. 12. 2018 at the Michigan Capitol | Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan

Alabama, Georgia and Ohio have overshadowed Michigan recently with abortion bans. But now not just one, but two ballot measures could be coming our way for 2020.

Of course, the real goal of these abortion bans is for the GOP-controlled Legislature to adopt them before voters have their say. And the beauty of it is that Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has vowed to veto any anti-abortion legislation that hits her desk, doesn’t have that right for citizen-initiated petitions.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, May 18, 2019 | Andrew Roth

As the Advance has previously reported, Right to Life of Michigan has launched a ballot drive to ban the standard dilation and evacuation abortion procedure. Both the state House and Senate passed bills on Right to Life’s lobby day last week, but the group knows Whitmer will veto.

So the petition drive is an end-run around the governor — something RTL used on Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, too, on the so-called “rape insurance” law in 2013. The anti-abortion group only needs to gather 340,047 signatures to get the question before the Legislature.

While some are hopeful RTL won’t meet that threshold with the GOP law passed in Lame Duck that imposes geographic restrictions on signature-gathering, it’s doubtful that will stop a well-funded operation. The real losers are true grassroots efforts, like Voters Not Politicians, which won the anti-gerrymandering initiative Proposal 2. A cynic might say that might be why Right to Life didn’t seem to fight terribly hard against the bill.

Michigan Capitol, March 22, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

Another benefit to these petition drives is that they’re a great way to build a group’s fundraising list, which is one of those things everyone in Lansing knows but doesn’t talk about in polite company.

Now there’s a second effort to ban abortion at six weeks, from the Michigan Heartbeat Coalition, the Detroit News reported. Reproductive rights activists have long been expecting this. It’s worth noting that if the U.S. Supreme Court does overturn Roe v. Wade, Michigan is one of the states where abortion will be illegal based on state law.

Usually it’s considered self-defeating to have two different ballot initiatives on the same issue. But the hope for both groups is that the Legislature will simply adopt their measures.

So voters won’t even have the right to cast a ballot in 2020 — although you can bet that reproductive rights will play a huge factor in the presidential election and down-ballot races anyway.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 23-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on C-SPAN, MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ people, the state budget, the economy and more. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 100 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive.