Michigan Will Put Abortion Rights Vote to the People in November

“What a sad marker of the times," said one state Supreme Court justice.

Michigan Will Put Abortion Rights Vote to the People in November
Photo:JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP (Getty Images)

Michigan’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the ballot measure to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution, signed by more than 753,759 Michiganders, is valid and must appear on the November ballot.

Abortion rights supporters needed to collect a little more than 425,000 signatures for the measure to make the November ballot. The Reproductive Freedom for All campaign submitted more than 750,000 signatures, and officials determined that at least 596,000 of them were valid.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack said the initiative’s challengers had failed to produce anyone who was actually confused by the ballot’s wording, as the challengers claimed. Not allowing the initiative to be voted on would “disenfranchise millions” in the state, she said, ending her concurring opinion like a disappointed teacher: “What a sad marker of the times.”

A second justice concurred. “I believe that my long-expressed interest in letting the people of Michigan make their own decisions at the ballot box speaks for itself,” Justice Richard Bernstein wrote in his opinion.

The decision brought some spicy takes to the bench. Using the most lawyer move ever, Bernstein called out his dissenting colleague Justice Brian K. Zahra, who was sympathetic to the challengers’ arguments about spacing and font size on the ballot. “Justice Zahra noted that, as a wordsmith, he finds it ‘an unremarkable proposition that spaces between words matter.’ As a blind person who is also a wordsmith and a member of this Court, I find it unremarkable to note that the lack of visual spacing has never mattered much to me,” Bernstein wrote in a footnote.

Lawyer burns aside, this ruling concludes a months-long fight to get the initiative on the ballot. Enshrining abortion rights into the Michigan constitution is especially important considering that it’s one of the states in continued legal limbo following the fall of Roe v. Wade.

Michigan will be the latest state to vote on abortion rights. California, Nevada, and Vermont will vote on protective measures, while Kentucky will vote on an anti-abortion initiative.

In early August, Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected an anti-abortion ballot measure that would have removed protections for abortion from the state constitution. The pro-choice position in that instance was voting “no” to preserve the status quo, but in Michigan, advocates will be asking people to vote “yes” to expand protections.

Shortly after the Kansas vote, a USA Today/Ipsos poll found that seven in 10 Americans said they want to vote on abortion via ballot measure and, in that hypothetical vote, people would vote by almost 2 to 1 to make abortion legal.

Republicans wanted to send abortion back to the states. Come November, they’ll finally reap what they’ve sown.

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