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Campaign wants to put abortion rights in MI Constitution

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Gayatri Malhotra
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Abortion rights activists march in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 3, 2021.

Abortion rights advocates have taken an early step toward amending Michigan Constitution to guarantee abortion rights are protected if Roe versus Wade is overturned by the US Supreme Court.

The campaign, which includes Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, submitted petition language for an amendment that would supersede a long-dormant state law that would outlaw most abortions.

“It would preserve every individual’s right constitutionally to make the very personal decision about reproductive health care, including abortion,” said Nicole Stallworth, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, in an interview with Michigan Public Radio. “You know, right now, we’ve reached a critical time in our history where access to abortion in Michigan is at risk given that the Supreme Court is poised overturn nearly 50 years of precedent and restrict abortion access.”

The next step would be for the petition form and summary language at the top of petitions to be approved by the bipartisan Michigan Board of State Canvassers. It’s a voluntary action that would help the petition campaign inoculate itself from legal challenges based on technicalities. That would also clear the way for signature gathering to begin.

The campaign would have to gather 425,059 signatures of registered voters to put the proposed amendment on the ballot. It cannot take effect unless approved in a statewide election.

This action or something like it was expected, said the legislative affairs director for Right to Life of Michigan, which opposes abortion rights. Genevieve Marnon said a return to a dormant abortion ban appears likely.

“Anyone listening to the oral arguments could anticipate that the Supreme Court could very well overturn Roe versus Wade, sending the decision back to the states,” she said. “So, this was not an unexpected decision by the coalition to do this ballot initiative.”

The opposition could include legal challenges or a competing ballot campaign.

“Whatever that looks like I’m not sure yet,” said Marnon.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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