Two proposals that seek to modify Michigan’s abortion guidelines will seek voter signatures soon.
Groups backing two anti-abortion ballot drives in Michigan will begin collecting signatures after clearing procedural steps at the state elections board following a debate with pro-choice advocates who criticized the citizen-initiated bills as being misleading and inaccurate. If enough voters sign the petitions for the measures, the Republican-led Legislature could enact them into law without the signatures of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Whitmer has vetoed similar proposals in the past.
The bipartisan Board of State Canvassers approved 100-word summaries for petitions to be circulated by the Michigan Heartbeat Coalition. The Coalition would like to see abortions banned as early as six weeks when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The remaining petitions will be circulated by Michigan Values Life, which is affiliated with Right to Life of Michigan. The organization supports prohibiting dilation and evacuation during the second trimester of a pregnancy, otherwise known as “dismemberment.”
Representatives from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have opposed the summaries prepared by the state elections bureau citing “incendiary, medically inaccurate language that, in the case of the heartbeat measure, does not tell would-be signers that abortion would be banned at or around six weeks.” This is what the groups have criticized as being misleading.
The four-member board agreed to use the term “cardiac activity” instead of “fetal heartbeat,” but this was the only change made to the original proposals.
“I do think it’s neutral. I think it’s fair. I think we need to leave it up to people who are going to sign the petition and the voters at the ballot box to determine whether or not to support or oppose the proposal,” Republican board member Aaron Van Langevelde said of the measure prohibiting dilation and evacuation, or D&E.
Democratic member Julie Matuzak said she was “concerned that the terminology in the summary is not medically accurate, but the proponents do define it within the petition itself.” She added, “I reluctantly support this one.”
Democratic member Jeannette Bradshaw stated, “One of the things we have to remember, and we know this as board members, is to protect the citizens’ right to petition regardless of our personal decisions or our personal thoughts on those matters.”
“This proposal would effectively ban almost all abortions in the state of Michigan,” said Dr. Halley Crissman. “This early in pregnancy, many people don’t even know they’re pregnant.”
The groups must each collect 340,000 valid voter signatures in the state within six months to be able to put the bills before lawmakers for review. The public would vote on November 2020 if they refuse to act.
Right to Life officials oppose the heartbeat initiative, citing it could interfere with an existing abortion ban if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Recently, a dozen states to passed new laws restricting abortion access, which are slated to take effect in 2019. Some of the laws have been put into place, it seems apparent, to force the U.S. Supreme Court to review 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision that recognized a woman’s right to choose to end her pregnancy. The landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution “provides a fundamental right to privacy” that protects a pregnant woman’s decision to discontinue it.
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