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Michigan Proposal 3: What changes if abortion becomes constitutional right

abortion rally
Michigan voters are set to weigh making abortion a constitutional right when they consider Proposal 3 on Nov. 8. (Bridge file photo)
  • The abortion ballot measure would ensure ‘reproductive freedom’ for all
  • Democratic candidates typically support, while Republicans oppose
  • Many details may have to be sorted out in the courts or Legislature

Nov. 21, 2022: A Texas lawsuit could stifle Michigan access to the abortion pill
Nov. 9, 2022: Abortion locked into Michigan constitution. What comes next.
Nov. 9, 2022: Michigan Proposal 3 supporting abortion rights wins big

Michigan voters will decide the future of legally-accessed abortions in the state when they vote on Proposal 3 at the polls on Nov. 8. 

Voting “yes” would amend the Michigan Constitution to include protection for “reproductive freedom” and invalidate a dormant 91-year-old ban on abortions. 

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Voting “no” would leave abortion access up to elected officials or judges. 

Related:

Here is everything you need to know about the abortion ballot measure and where people stand on it.

What is Proposal 3?

Proposal 3 is a ballot measure that would include a broad new right to "reproductive freedom" in the Michigan Constitution. If voters pass the proposal, it would invalidate a 1931 abortion ban and potentially other existing regulations. ​

Proposal 3's ballot committee, Reproductive Freedom for All, has collected more than 735,000 valid signatures since its petition began in the spring. A June decision from the U.S. Supreme Court striking down 49 years of federal protections for abortions roused the committee's efforts. 

Upon an order by the Michigan Supreme Court, the bipartisan Board of State Canvassers certified the proposal on Sept. 9. 

What would Proposal 3 do?

The Reproductive Freedom for All proposal would amend the Michigan Constitution to:

  • Ensure that everyone "has a fundamental right to reproductive freedom." That right extends beyond abortion to prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, miscarriage management and infertility care. 
  • Allow elected officials to stop or regulate abortion after a fetus reaches "viability,” which is typically defined as about 24 weeks. Still, the state could not stop an abortion if a medical professional finds it necessary to protect the pregnant person's "life or physical or mental health."
  • Only allow elected officials to restrict abortion rights if it is "justified by a compelling state interested achieved by the least restrictive means."
  • Stop the state from arresting someone based on "actual, potential, perceived or alleged pregnancy outcomes," including abortion, miscarriages and stillbirths. 

That said, there is vast disagreement about the amendment’s impact on other laws. Independent analysis of the measure indicates courts likely would have to sort out many details.

“As much of the language is broad, undefined, and situation-specific, the parameters of the right (to abortion) will be determined by potential legal challenges,” concluded the Citizens Research Council, a nonpartisan policy nonprofit.

Who is supporting, fighting the proposal?

The ballot committee, Reproductive Freedom for All, is backed by a coalition of organizations like the ACLU of Michigan, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan and Michigan Voices. 

Sponsors of the proposal say it would restore Michganders rights that were lost when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade. 

Opponents argue Proposal 3 would invalidate other existing abortion regulations, including a parental consent law for minors that lawmakers approved in 1991.

Those opposing the proposal include Citizens to Support MI Women and Children, Right to Life Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference. 

Where do the gubernatorial candidates stand on Proposal 3?

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said she’ll “fight like hell” to keep abortion legal. Her legal team persuaded an Oakland County judge to issue a preliminary injunction against county prosecutors who wanted to enforce the 1931 banning abortion after Roe was struck down.

A state judge separately issued an injunction blocking enforcement of the law, which made it a felony punishable by up to four years in prison and fines of up to $5,000 for those who perform abortions except to save a mother’s life.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon opposes Proposal 3 and has said the only exception to abortion prohibitions should be if the mother’s life is in danger. Whitmer’s campaign and surrogates have spent millions in TV ads reminding voters of Dixon’s stance.

In recent interviews, Dixon clarified she supports the state's legislative and political process that allows residents to vote on the proposal — and she’s argued abortion shouldn’t be an issue in the governor’s race because of the ballot measure.

Where do the attorney general candidates stand?

Democratic incumbent Dana Nessel supports the measure and filed a brief to the Michigan Supreme Court asking it to order the Board of Canvassers to place the proposal on the ballot after it deadlocked approving its language. 

She has said her office would not enforce the 1931 ban on abortions even if it took effect.

Her Republican opponent, Matthew DePerno, has said he supports and would enforce the 1931 ban on abortion. 

How many people get abortions in Michigan?

In 2021, about 30,100 people had abortions in Michigan. Of those people, 28,400 were Michigan residents. 

Michigan had the fifth-most abortion procedures in the nation in 2019, and that rate is still rising faster than the national average. A decade earlier, in 2009, Michigan's rate was the 26th highest in the nation.

Michigan’s abortions began increasing in 2009 after steadily declining since 1982. There were nearly 30,000 abortions in Michigan in 2020, a 33 percent increase since 2009 when there were 23,357.

Nationwide, abortions reached their lowest level in 2017 but increased by small percentages in subsequent years.

Where are most people getting abortions?

Statewide, Wayne County had the highest rate of abortions-- 33 abortions per every 1,000 women ages 15-44. That includes Detroit, where the rate is 52 per 1,000 women. 

Rural areas, most of which do not have an abortion provider, have the lowest rates, with fewer than 5 women per 1,000. 

The highest rate in a county without a provider is St. Clair, at 10 per 1,000; it borders Macomb County, where providers operate. The rate in Macomb is 18 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44; it is 15.8 statewide.

Who is getting abortions?

According to a Bridge Michigan analysis, far fewer young women are getting abortions in Michigan compared to 1985, with women 30 and older now far more likely to get the procedure. 

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Abortion rights advocates have said that low-income women would be most impacted if abortion is outlawed. While Michigan does not track women’s income when they get the procedure, the state does record race. 

In 2020, Black women comprised just over half of all abortions, and whites comprised about 37 percent. The median household income of Black people is 58 percent of the $63,287 median household income for whites. 

Nationwide, there are similar racial disparities in abortion rates, according to federal figures.

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