Ballot initiative to enshrine abortion rights is 'sad' and 'harmful', Michigan bishops say

Election vote ballot box Credit roibu  Shutterstock roibu / Shutterstock.

Abortion advocacy groups in Michigan have launched a ballot initiative to override a state abortion ban— which is currently unenforced— by way of a constitutional amendment. The state’s Catholic Conference said the effort shows the power of the abortion industry in influencing state policy. 

“More than anything, women considering an abortion deserve support, love, and compassion. For decades, abortion has been touted as the only option, harmless and easy, yet we know this is a lie. Abortion hurts women,” Rebecca Mastee, Policy Advocate for the Michigan Catholic Conference, said Jan. 7.

“Today’s news that some are looking to enshrine abortion in the state constitution is a sad commentary on the outsized and harmful role the abortion industry plays in our politics and our society. We look forward to standing with women through a potential statewide ballot campaign to promote a culture of life and good health for both moms and unborn children.”

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan are two of the organizations sponsoring the ballot drive. Organizers of the ballot initiative need about 425,000 valid voter signatures to put it before the electorate in November, the AP reports. 

According to another group involved with the campaign, Michigan Advance, the ballot measure would amend Michigan’s constitution explicitly to affirm Michiganders’ right to “make and carry out decisions relating to pregnancy, including abortion, birth control, prenatal care and childbirth.” 

Michigan is one of several states with an abortion law on the books which is currently unenforceable due to Roe v. Wade. A 1931 Michigan state law makes it a felony for anyone to provide an abortion unless "necessary to preserve the life of such woman." 

Michigan is not the only state where efforts to enshrine abortion rights into state law are underway. In Vermont, a similar ballot measure has been in the works and will likely appear on the November ballot.  

New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill on Jan. 10 which codifies a “fundamental right to reproductive autonomy, which includes the right to contraception, the right to terminate a pregnancy, and the right to carry a pregnancy to term.” That bill is awaiting the New Jersey governor’s signature. 

Michigan recorded nearly 30,000 abortions performed in 2020, the most in the state since 1996, but still 40% fewer than the peak of 49,000 in 1987, the Detroit Free Press reported. 

Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has called on the Republican-led state legislature to repeal the abortion ban. 

In late September 2021, Whitmer line-item vetoed from the state budget about $16 million worth of funding for alternatives to abortion, drawing consternation from the state’s Catholic conference. 

“Governor Whitmer’s vetoes amplify the disappointing reality of this administration that the abortion industry is more important than vulnerable mothers and their unborn children,” David Maluchnik, Vice President for Communications at the Michigan Catholic Conference, said at the time.

The provisions vetoed included $10 million to develop “factual educational information materials on adoption as an alternative to abortion”; $1.5 million for pregnancy resource centers; $1 million for pregnant and parenting services at colleges and universities; and $50,000 for the health department to inform the public that it does not use taxpayer dollars to fund any elective abortion.

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