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Michigan Proposal 3 supporting abortion rights wins big

pro abortion rights activist
Proposal 3, which would keep abortion legal in Michigan, has been a top issue among state voters, and the most expensive race in the state this year. (Bridge file photo)
  • Proposal 3, which enshrines the right to abortion in the Michigan Constitution, won handily Tuesday 
  • It's passage upends months of legal drama following the demise of Roe v. Wade this summer 
  • Voters in California and Vermont also approve measures to protect abortion rights

LANSING —Michigan voters on Tuesday resoundingly approved Proposal 3, the constitutional amendment to enshrine reproductive rights into the state constitution.

With nearly 85 percent of votes counted by 8:20 a.m. Wednesday, Proposal 3 had received 55.5 percent of the votes in support of the measure, compared to 44.5 percent of voters who opposed it. 

Related:

“Today, the people of Michigan voted to restore the reproductive rights they’ve had for 50 years,” Reproductive Freedom campaign spokesperson Darci McConnell said after the group declared victory. 

“Proposal 3’s passage marks an historic victory for abortion access in our state and in our country – and Michigan has paved the way for future efforts to restore the rights and protections of Roe v. Wade nationwide.”

Proposal 3's passage means legal access to abortion and other reproductive services will be preserved in Michigan. The vote comes after the U.S. Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade in June, ending federal protections for abortion for nearly 50 years.

Voters in California and Vermont also approved similar measures to protect abortion on Tuesday.

After the Roe reversal, months of legal tumult in Michigan followed. Abortion rights supporters and opponents asked courts to enforce — or abandon — a now-blocked 1931 abortion ban, which would have made most abortions a felony punishable by up to four years in prison or $5,000 in fines.

The rival campaigns also fought over whether Proposal 3 should make the ballot, prompting a Michigan Supreme Court to recently issue an order allowing voters to decide the issue at the ballot Tuesday.

Sponsor

Proposal 3 was the most expensive race in Michigan this year, according to the latest campaign finance reports, drawing a total $57 million in fundraising between rivaling campaigns. 

Reproductive Freedom for All, the coalition spearheading Proposal 3, had raised at least $40.2 million and spent at least $22.5 million on ads. 

Volunteers and fundraising for the campaign spiked after the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade. More than 4,400 volunteers have knocked on doors, called voters and held events to support the campaign, campaign spokesperson Darci McConnell previously told Bridge.

Countering that effort, the anti-abortion coalition Citizens to Support MI Women and Children has raised at least $16.9 million and spent almost all of it on advertisement, criticizing the proposal as “confusing” and “extreme.”

Opponents, which included the Catholic church and Right to Life of Michigan, argued the constitutional amendment would invalidate up to 41 state laws regulating abortion, such as the law requiring minors to seek parental consent or a court waiver before obtaining an abortion.

Critics also said the proposal would allow minors to access abortion and gender-affirming care without their parents’ consent or knowledge. Abortion rights supporters disputed that, arguing parental consent laws would remain in effect if the proposal passes.

Third-party legal experts said much of its impact on state regulations would be up to the court or state lawmakers if the measure is approved.

The Committee to Protect Health Care, a doctors group that helped campaign for Proposal 3, also celebrated what it assumed to be a Proposal 3 victory. 

“This is a historic victory for reproductive rights in Michigan, and the Committee to Protect Health Care was proud to help get Proposal 3 across the finish line,” said Dr. Rob Davidson, executive director of the committee and an emergency physician in West Michigan. 

“Together with campaign leaders and activists, doctors and health care professionals, the Committee has helped make Michigan a leader for protecting abortion rights. We look forward to continuing the fight on behalf of patients in states across the country.”

The ACLU of Michigan, which was part of the coalition supporting Proposal 3, celebrated shortly after the campaign declared victory.

“Together, we blazed a trail, making Michigan a national model of what other states can achieve across America,” said ACLU of Michigan executive director Loren Khogali. “Given the strength, resilience, and determination of all the people who are engaged in the movement, I am confident in the path ahead.”

Christen Pollo, spokesperson for the anti-abortion coalition Citizens to Support MI Women and Children, did not immediately return Bridge’s call seeking comment early Wednesday. 

Mixed reaction from voters

The proposal was what drove many voters to the ballot box on Tuesday. 

Pam Cousino, an Erie Township resident, stood outside the Township Hall on Tuesday afternoon, distributing pamphlets and urging voters to cast a “no” vote on the proposal. A sports utility vehicle honked as it passed, and Cousino, a pathology lab technician, waved as she wrapped her coat tight against a gust of wind.

“I want to make sure people vote with knowledge rather than what they’ve heard from a friend,” she told Bridge. “This (ballot initiative) is too open to interpretation, too dangerous.” 

Hannah DuPont, a 20-year-old first-time voter in Lambertville, disagrees. She smiled broadly as she put her “I voted” sticker on her sweatshirt Tuesday after casting a “yes” vote on Proposal 3.  

“I don’t want people to have a say over my body or my friends’ bodies,” she said. 

For some voters, such as Jesee McSpadden, the issue of abortion rights isn’t as black and white. McSpadden, who described herself as “personally pro-life,” is expecting her third child in February. 

“Abortion may not be my choice,” she told Bridge. But, she said, too many people vote based on their own circumstances, rather than others’ needs.

“I try to think that, although this may be my situation, others have different circumstances,” she said.

McSpadden, a 32-year-old aesthetician, said her support for Proposal 3 grew because of what she viewed as a campaign against it based on misinformation and exaggeration. She said she googled the ballot language and found it straightforward and not confusing at all — as opponents had claimed.

““It shouldn’t be okay to say such outrageous things,” she said. “My generation just sees too much bad now on both sides.”

What to expect next?

If voters approve the measure, the constitutional amendment would take effect 45 days after Election Day, which would be mid-December.

Some current state laws regulating abortion — such as the parental consent for minors and informed consent requirements — could be challenged in court by advocates who deem those rules restrictive and unconstitutional. If that happens, judges will decide whether the state laws in question should remain effective.

Lawmakers could also amend laws they think are unconstitutional or propose new ones. 

Had Michigan voters rejected Proposal 3, abortion would have remained legal in Michigan — in the short term, at least. A judge in Michigan blocked the 1931 state ban on most abortions from taking effect, but the decision could have been overturned by a higher court if supporters of the law succeeded in their appeal. That question now appears to be moot. 

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s legal efforts also included asking the Michigan Supreme Court to declare that the state constitution’s current text supports abortion rights. The high court had not answered that request before election day, yet another legal question that appears to now be resolved.  

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