Michigan Right to Life scraps abortion ban ballot drive

A ballot drive to ban a common second-trimester abortion method has failed. (Courtesy photo)

Right to Life of Michigan is ending a ballot drive to ban a common second-trimester abortion method, pledging instead to support like-minded candidates through the 2020 elections. 

The state Bureau of Elections estimated last month that the group did not gather enough valid signatures from voters to advance the proposal. Instead of challenging those findings, Right to Life scrapped the initiative for now. 

“Our petition drive system works well in normal times, but this time we were forced to fight a series of unprecedented battles we did not choose,” Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing said in a statement Tuesday. 

Among those, Listing said, were challenges in retraining volunteers to abide by a 2018 law that increased restrictions on ballot initiatives, a competing ballot drive that would have banned abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, and an increased number of signatures necessary due to high voter turnout in 2018. 

The group needed 340,047 valid signatures to move the initiative forward, the highest number needed since the 1970s. In comparison, 252,523 signatures were needed in 2018. They submitted 380,070, but the Bureau of Elections estimated only 332,771 were valid. 

“The effort behind this petition drive was worth it and will carry forward,” Listing said. Right to Life has spearheaded multiple ballot initiatives or referendums and is well-known for its volunteer signature-gathering corps. It is the first time the group has not successfully completed a ballot initiative or referendum drive, Legislative Director Genevieve Marnon said.

“This was our first attempt to end the dismemberment of babies in Michigan, and we will continue working until we end this form of violence and protect the lives of every unborn child,” Listing said. 

The initiative would have banned the dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion method, which Right to Life refers to as “dismemberment abortion.” The procedure involves dilation of the cervix and using forceps or other medical tools to remove the fetus from the uterus.

If approved by the Board of State Canvassers, the petition would have gone before the Republican-led Legislature, which indicated they intended to approve it. That would make it a law incapable of being vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. 

D&E abortions are the most common abortion procedure in the second trimester of pregnancy, between 13 and 24 weeks. However, it was used in fewer than 10 percent of all abortions in Michigan in 2017, according to an analysis of similar legislation from the House Fiscal Agency. 

A ballot committee backed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan challenged Right to Life’s signatures with the Bureau of Elections earlier this month. In a statement issued Tuesday, Michigan Planned Parenthood President Lori Carpentier called the petition failure “a victory for every doctor and every patient in Michigan.”

“The credit for this victory goes to all the pro-choice voters who turned out in 2018 to vote for reproductive health champions like Gov. Whitmer and AG Nessel,” Carpentier said. 

“That record-breaking turnout forced Right to Life to have to collect signatures in proportion to the number of Michigan voters who actually agree with their agenda; unsurprisingly, it proved to be impossible to do that and meet the minimum number of signatures required to be certified.”

The coronavirus pandemic has made it challenging for multiple groups to advance ballot initiatives this election cycle. A ballot initiative to add LGBTQ rights to the state’s anti-discrimination law punted its effort to 2020 due to signature-gathering challenges related to the pandemic. Right to Life of Michigan, however, submitted signatures in December, well before the state saw its first cases.

The group is planning to “pivot to the elections” in the remaining months in the 2020 election cycle, Marnon said, adding that the next steps for a D&E abortion ban may be determined by its results. Whether Republicans, who traditionally support abortion restrictions, retain control of both chambers of the state Legislature will “make a difference in our strategy going forward.”

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Tue, 07/21/2020 - 4:48pm

If a person is de-evolved enough to think that it is a good idea to kill their offspring (offspring who would, if asked, answer "yes I want to live" 10 times out of 10) are beyond help and I see no reason to any of these political measures. Let these de-evolved cave-minds kill their offspring. Maybe they will go extinct. The world would definitely be a better place.

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 7:54am

@Jeff, Please direct your efforts at bodily control of women to a more worthy target, men who make women unwantedly pregnant. If they do not ejaculate into a woman who does not want to be pregnant, the abortion problem is a mute issue. Men and woman can still have sex, as they are wont to do, but getting a woman unwantedly pregnant is wrong. And it’s especially wrong to then deny her the right to choose not to carry the pregnancy to term. Women are completely capable of deciding this issue for ourselves. Those who want to control unwanted pregnancies, start directing your efforts to the source of the problem: men.

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 8:46pm

This group shamefully doesn't care about the back alley rusty hanger method that preceded the current method and still takes place where abortions are illegal.

James S.
Wed, 07/22/2020 - 8:00pm

Thank you for saying this, history tends to repeat itself again through plain ole ignorance.

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 8:36am

What I would like to know is why they turned in thousand of duplicates BELIEVING that it would pass the muster. Did they believe that the committee would easily and readily rubber stamp without checking, or was there plans for BRIBERY?

Free us from hy...
Wed, 07/22/2020 - 7:11pm

Because the holier than thou hypocrites have no problems bearing false witness/lying.

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 8:42am

Anyway you look at it, abortion is murder of a human life.

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 3:22pm

That's not what Roe v. Wade found.

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 9:00am

Proving once again that people realize that doctors know more about medical procedures than politicians.

John Anthony La...
Wed, 07/22/2020 - 9:22am

Actually, RTL/MI did challenge last month's findings of the Bureau of Elections that there were not enough valid signatures on this petition -- as your own previous article stated.


And the Board of State Canvassers voted to give them another chance with a larger sample. If they are now withdrawing the petition before the Board meets on Friday, it may be because there were even more invalid signatures in that second sample.

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 3:23pm

Maybe I shouldn't have signed "Bozo DaKlown"

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 9:31am

As I read recently, when you destroy children you destroy infinite possibility.

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 3:42pm

Even adults like George Floyd?

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 9:38am

If the anti-abortion group really wants to have a proposal that all voters would get a chance to vote on, I am all for that. However, because of some arcane provision in Michigan law. If a proposal (with enough valid signatures) is turned in, our atrociously gerrymandered legislature can pass it and the governor can't veto it and the people can't overturn it.
That is highly undemocratic. There is another arcane provision that if the legislature attaches money to a law, the people are also prevented from overturning it.
The people should ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS have the option to overturn anything the legislature passes.

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 11:00am

So much for Right to Life. Keep in mind that they never give a damn about children and mothers once the child is born. Have you ever heard Right to Life and the other anti abortion groups argue for extended medical care for children or their mothers? Have you ever heard Right to Life or other anti abortion groups fighting for food and education for children? Never!

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 2:27pm

Your comment is illogical because this issue is whether the killing of an unborn human being is right or wrong. We should kill anyone that might not be well cared for after birth? If it is alright to kill the unborn person, is it also alright to kill the demented old lady who cannot take care of herself, doesn’t know anyone, and lays in a bed all day every day? What is the difference? Would YOU think it would have been alright for your mother to kill you? Or, are you glad you’re alive? The issue here is murder, and that alone. Don’t mix it up with other issues just to lessen the fact that it is murder.

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 3:26pm

This from the people (GOP) who say we should all go back to work and accept the casualties, "grandma will understand".

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 7:14pm

You are absolutely right otherwise there would be no children in foster care. Instead there are thousands waiting to be adopted. These same Bible thumpers won't let gay couples adopt. They hate the living.

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 11:23am

These abortions are rare and sad, because they are nearly always (I suspect it is actually ALWAYS) the result of a pregnancy gone terribly wrong. The child has died, or is not expected to survive due to grievous birth defects, and/or the mother’s life is in danger.
Outlawing these would mean that women would have labor induced to deliver a dead baby, or they would have to try to carry a damaged precious little life to full term, and watch it die in their arms. Or the mother could die herself due to complications.
These are wrenching tragic decisions that must be left to a woman and her doctor, not to politicians.
Not all pregnancies end with a happy mother and a healthy little bundle of joy, and we shouldn’t pretend that they do.

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 7:22pm

My mom had to carry a dead fetus for two months when she was pregnant in the years before this procedure was legal. Everyone kept asking her when she was due, talking about cute baby clothing, etc. and we were all waiting for our sibling to be born. Only our parents knew the fetus was already dead. It's not something you really want to talk about, but I guess there's no such thing as privacy anymore. She's still scarred today by this traumatic experience from 50 some years ago. These things are personal, best left to a woman and her doctor.