March 25, 2023

LANSING, Mich. – The abortion battle rages across the state for political resolution as activists, policymakers, politicians, health care providers and potential patients watch the November 8 election.

Voters will vote on Proposal 3, which, if approved, would install protections for a woman’s right to abortion in the Michigan Constitution.

Kansas voted this year to keep abortion legal. Now Michigan is one of five states, along with California, Kentucky, Montana and Vermont, to ask voters next month to give their views on abortion policy in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in June. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That ruling overturned the court’s decision from 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and let states set their own abortion policies.

Since the court ruling, access to abortion in the US has evolved into a jumble of norms. In some states, decades-old laws lingering on the books can trigger dramatic shifts, while others keep an eye out for new laws. But as the policy landscape forms, those on the front lines must operate in a state of precarious uncertainty.

In Michigan, the politically stalled state government had a 1931 law banning abortions dusted off and then thrown in court, where judges temporarily blocked prosecutors from enforcing it. The ballot to protect abortion rights only made it to the ballot after lawyers filed petitions with more than 735,000 valid signatures and Michigan Supreme Court justices ended a legal wrangle over the technicalities of petitions.

Abortion policies have also permeated both the attorney general and the gubernatorial race, with incumbent Democratic administration Gretchen Whitmer, who supports abortion rights, going up against Republican Tudor Dixon, an outspoken conservative who opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest. .

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When Whitmer urged Michigan voters to fight like hell to protect the right to abortion, Michigan’s Catholic Bishop decided Earl Boyea urged Catholics”fight like heaven” to stop the state constitutional amendment.

“There is currently a tennis match going on in Lansing,” said Jim Sprague, CEO of the Grand Rapids Maternity Information Center and a member of the coalition against Proposal 3.

Christen Pollo, Executive Director of Protect life Michigan, which works with students on campuses to end abortion, said “voters overwhelmingly oppose the extreme policies” in the measure. But according to a poll commissioned by the Detroit Free Press and its media partners, 64% of respondents plan to vote for the mood measure to codify abortion rights into the Michigan Constitution.

Meanwhile, the state’s abortion providers continue to see patients amid the confusion over what will be legal in Michigan. At a full-service Planned Parenthood clinic in a bustling Lansing shopping plaza, staffers continue to see a steady stream of women seeking help. And on a busy corner in front of the clinic’s parking lot, a steady stream of anti-abortion protesters still show up, signs in hand, just as they’ve done since this location opened decades ago.

It all looks the same as it did before the landmark Supreme Court decision, but behind the scenes, abortion providers and advocates are preparing for an uncertain future. Linda Goler Blount, president of the national Black women’s health obligation in Atlanta, is working with activist networks across the country to support their efforts to ensure contraceptives are available. “Some of those groups order and stock abortion medical products,” she said.

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And medical professionals worry about what will happen if Michigan’s Bill 3 is not approved. dr. Alane Laws-Barker, who works with medical residents at Michigan State University in East Lansing, said some emergency room and internal medicine residents are concerned they are being accused of causing an abortion while providing care. Across the board, she said, doctors and other health care providers are concerned that their medical licenses could be compromised, or they could be locked up if the vote fails.

The entire medical community is “in a wait and see,” she said.

But if Proposal 3 succeeds, Sprague said, it will lead to a… cascade that removes dozens of other laws from the books that protect women and children. He called it “a bad law for women” in Michigan that is too radical.

A ban on abortions in the state would likely have the greatest impact on black women. According to the Michigan Department of Community HealthBlack women make up nearly 56% of patients who have had an abortion in 2021.

“The disparity in the number of black women seeking abortion services speaks to the many health care inequalities they suffer across the board,” said Goler Blount.

So black reproductive activist groups are among those who make it clear to voters where elected officials stand, Goler Blount said. She added that they are working on mass voter registration and efforts to get votes.

Both Michigan parties have invested millions in advertising to defend their cases. In addition to neighborhood surveys and phone trees, they also take to social media, including: Detroit rapper Marshall Mathers, better known as Eminem, which is behind the measure. Signs for each side are sprouting in yards and anti-abortion groups have gathered prayer meetings across the state.

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The stakes are high and heated as the state waits for the vote. In September a man shot an 83-year-old canvasser in the shoulder in Ionia County while handing out anti-abortion pamphlets, and earlier this month, abortion rights graffiti was sprayed outside a Roman Catholic church in Lansing.

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