In Michigan, for and against abortion will soon be decided in a referendum

Now it is confirmed: on November 8, Michigan will vote on the inclusion of the right to abortion in its Constitution. This referendum, a consequence of the petition launched by the pro-choice alliance Reproductive freedom for allhe hardly ever saw the light of day.

Almost three months after the US Supreme Court dismissed Roe v. Wade (with Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization), which guaranteed the right to abortion in the country, a number of states have passed laws prohibiting or severely restricting abortion access. Now it is totally illegal in nearly a dozen states. In Michigan, pro and anti-abortion are waging a particularly fierce legal and media battle.

In Michigan, a legal but fragile right

Voluntary termination of pregnancy is, for the time being, still legal in this Midwestern state. But it is also, at present, particularly fragile and threatened: abortion is not protected by law, indeed it is prohibited by a text of 1931 (Compiled Laws of Michigan, section 750.14). This same law was deemed unconstitutional in 1973 by the Michigan Supreme Court in its decision People versus Bricker, a few months after the famous Roe v. wade. Abortion is therefore authorized up to the viability of the fetus.

From the historic revocation of Roe v. Wade in June, abortion remained legal in this state ruled by Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, thanks to the intervention of justice: on September 7, Judge Elizabeth Gleicher made a judgment in favor of Planned Parenthood (the equivalent of family planning in France), considering that the 1931 law is unconstitutional. The Attorney General has not challenged this decision, but other lawsuits are currently running their course … A multiplicity of appeals that leads Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein to think that it is his institution that sooner or later will have the last word on the matter.

It is in this tense legal context that the pro-choice collective Reproductive Freedom for All has launched a petition intended to lead to a referendum to include the right to abortion in the Michigan Constitution: Proposition 3.

A typographical debate

This strategy, jointly implemented by theACLU Michigan, Voices of Michigan et Planned parenting, however, it faced a serious obstacle. Despite the impressive number of signatures collected, the specific documents of the petition on the freedom of reproduction suffered from a particularly troublesome typographical problem at the time of printing: many words were glued together, without spaces.

The text of the petition, which opponents accuse of distancing problems, creating, in their opinion, words that do not exist. | Screenshot via the Michigan Supreme Court

A detail that is not without consequences: to be taken into consideration, the requests must respect, among other things, the provisions of artArticle 168.482 of the MCL. If the latter does not explicitly mention the space between words, should we then validate a petition whose typography is particularly overused? This question has brought the Board of State Canvassers, the committee responsible for certifying petitions, to a standstill: the two Democrats and the two Republicans that make it up have not reached a consensus. Therefore, and in accordance with artarticle 168.479Reproductive freedom for all took the case to the state Supreme Court, which slice in his favour:

“[L’article] MCL 168.482 (3) only requires that “[l]The full text of the proposed amendment follows the summary and is printed in 8 points. The “full text” of the amendment is present: regardless of the existence or evidence of the spacing, all the words are present, in the same order, and it is undisputed that they are printed in 8 points. In the present case, the meaning of the words has not been altered by the alleged insufficient spacing between them.the Michigan Supreme Court said.

For Christen Pollo, president of the pro-life organization Citizen in support of Michigan women and childrenwho in this case joined the defense, this conclusion is a mistake: “The Supreme Court made the wrong decision […]. The petition was fatally flawed. The correct number of errors for our state constitution is zero, not sixty ”.

A disappointment that echoes the dissenting opinion expressed by one of the Court’s judges, Brian K. Zahra: “Words separated by spaces cease to be words or become new words when the spaces between them are removed”, He believes. On the contrary, for reproductive freedom for all, this court decision offers a possibility “back to the roe deer” and to carve in stone a right that has been protected for almost fifty years.

Exasperated opposition between pro and anti

Caroline Taylor Smith, anti-Proposition 3 activist and director of public relations for the Progressive insurrection against abortionreport the “Confused nature” of the amendment, the provisions of which are suitable for authorizing abortion during pregnancy and granting immunity to any person “help or assist a pregnant person in exercising his right to freedom of procreation with his voluntary consent” in the terms of this amendment.

For the pro-life camp, this would allow people outside the medical profession to perform clandestine abortions without running the slightest risk. “Once they hear the reality of the proposal, voters are shocked by its extreme nature. In fact, after explaining the implications of this radical amendment, the overwhelming majority of voters decide to vote no to Proposition 3. Even many who say they are in favor of the choice and think that abortion should be allowed in certain circumstances disagree. with this amendment “ensures.

When asked about these interpretations of the amendment and their feelings about the outcome of the ballot, neither the Reproductive Freedom for All Press Office nor the ACLU Michigan Legal Department have yet responded to our requests.

A great challenge for the mid-term elections

If neither side appears to be overconfident, pro-choicers intend to benefit from a “post-Dobbs momentum” to safeguard the right to abortion in their state: the immense emotion that followed Roe’s reversal. . Wade caused a unprecedented increase registration of voters, especially among young people and women. A phenomenon that could benefit the Democratic Party and its pro-choice candidates during the mid-term elections, the midtermwhich will also take place on November 8th.

Additionally, Democrats can benefit from the fickleness of pro-life Republicans, such as Senator Lindsey Graham: By introducing a federal bill that would ban abortion in the United States after fifteen weeks of pregnancy, it contradicts her previous statements that every state should be free to legislate on this issue … A shameless reversal, as well as being one constitutionally questionable.

“Roe is in the ballot”, President Biden said in June, urging supporters of the choice to vote Democrat in November. The call was received loud and clear? This is what the midterm will determine.

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