Right to Life of Michigan launches ballot drive to ban abortion procedure

Right to Life of Michigan says it has successfully completed four similar ballot drives in the past. The group will need nearly 90,000 more signatures than needed in 2018 to get its legislation in front of lawmakers. (Shutterstock file photo)

Update: Michigan abortion foes can call procedure ‘dismemberment’ on ballot petitions

Right to Life of Michigan says it has launched a petition drive to ask voters to ban a common abortion procedure, one day after the state House and Senate passed bills that would outlaw the practice and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vowed to veto them.

The anti-abortion advocacy group said Wednesday it formed a new ballot committee, starting the process for a 2020 ballot drive.

The ballot petition will be similar to language in identical House and Senate bills that were adopted Tuesday, the group said. The bills would make it a felony for medical providers to perform what’s known as a dilation and evacuation abortion, a procedure that is commonly used in the second trimester.

Proponents of the legislation, including Right to Life, call the practice “dismemberment abortion.” The procedure involves dilation of the cervix and using forceps or other medical tools to remove the fetus from the uterus.

The legislation’s opponents, including most Democrats, say the legislation would infringe on a woman’s autonomy and unjustly restrict access to a procedure that’s often necessary to protect women’s health.

“Governor Whitmer still has the chance to change her mind and do the right thing,” Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing said in a statement. “If she won’t sign these bills to stop babies from having their arms and legs torn off, we’ll find 400,000 Michigan citizens who will sign it.”

The group says its ballot committee will be called “Michigan Values Life,” and it will include the tagline “End Dismemberment Abortions” throughout the ballot campaign.

Right to Life is at least the second potential ballot initiative aiming to make the November 2020 ballot, after another ballot group seeking to require employers in Michigan to offer workers paid sick leave said it filed petitions.

Michigan allows groups to propose legislation through the citizen initiative process. If the group gets enough petition signatures to put proposed legislation on the ballot, the state legislature can decide whether to approve it.

If it chooses not to, the issue goes to the public on the next general election ballot. If it does approve it, it becomes law and cannot be vetoed by the governor. This route offers far better prospects for Right to Life, given that Republicans still control both chambers of the legislature while Whitmer, a Democrat, occupies the governor’s office.

Right to Life of Michigan says it has already done four such successful campaigns for citizen-initiated legislation and it’s confident it would be able to gather enough signatures.

Right to Life’s last ballot drive was in 2013, to prohibit health insurers from covering abortion services without purchase of separate insurance coverage. The Legislature adopted the petition in 2013, meaning it was not put to voters on the November 2014 ballot.

However, the bar will be a little bit higher in 2020 than in the past. Republicans recently passed a measure that requires ballot initiatives to secure more voter signatures than in the past. Groups pushing legislative initiatives need to get signatures equal to at least eight percent of total votes cast for the highest office in the last election.

For 2018, that was the governor’s race, which means Right to Life would need 340,047 signatures to make it (nearly 90,000 more than last election). RTL said its goal is to collect 400,000 signatures.

The group said it is also undaunted by recent Republican-led changes to the citizen initiative process passed during the lame duck session. The new law requires that a maximum of 15 percent of a group’s petition signatures can come from any one congressional district.

Earlier this year, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson asked Attorney General Dana Nessel (both Democrats) to issue an opinion on the constitutionality of the law. Nessel said the law “puts a limit on the peoples’ voice.” The request remains pending.

“We’d be good under both sets of rules so we’re not concerned about that,” Chris Gast, spokesman for Right to Life of Michigan, told Bridge Tuesday. “But there is some uncertainty about what rule we’d be operating under.”

Gast said the group did not collect more than 15 percent of signatures from any one congressional district during its last petition drive.

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

Michigan is one of several states to join the enduring political battle over abortion. Just this week, Alabama passed a law that outlaws virtually all abortions, even in instances involving rape or incest. The U.S. Supreme Court, meanwhile, is weighing whether to hear challenges to strict abortion laws in Louisiana and Indiana.

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Wed, 05/15/2019 - 4:13pm

The collective hysteria of the Republican party right now surrounding this issue puts paid to any sympathy I might have had for their sincerely held beliefs. This is very clearly part of a national movement to gin up the base for 2020, just like GA, OH, and AL right now, because the base is the only thing besides gerrymandering keeping the GOP afloat. Where were yesterday's bills when Snyder was governor?

Vicki Bigelow
Thu, 05/16/2019 - 8:43am

I couldn’t love your comment more, Publius.

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 8:48am

The Republicans will overplay their hands in this. They see the country is divided in polling but when you press people would you overturn Roe v. Wade nearly 2/3 of Americans would not. Not putting exceptions in the Alabama bill was the dumbest thing ever that even Pat Robertson sees it failing in the courts. It would be nice if the Republicans joined this century and stop with their obsession about being pro-birth because it will catch-up with them in these elections sooner or later. People are a little more concerned with the future of their employment, health care, international issues, etc... abortion is quite a way down on the minds of voters. Wake up!

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 8:41am

So the real question is will the people of Michigan let the anti-Christ churches take over OUR governemnt like they have in other states!!!

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 8:47am

Just let those hysterical pro birthers try to get anti choice laws passed through a ballot initiative. Pro choice voters will trounce them. We're sick of their hypocrisy, and we're a lot more mobilized as voters now than in the past. Bring it.

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 10:18am

I agree. They are going to see that their bought politicians aren’t going to help them in a ballot vote. And that’s assuming they can get all the signatures for it to make it to the ballot anyway.

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 10:09am

It will never get to the voters. The legislature will adopt it as soon as they get their signatures and get proposal certified. This bypasses the governor's veto and makes it law. There is an excellent chance they will succeed.

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 9:31am

Like GA, OH, and AL right now, Michigan RTL may be trying to get this matter to SCOTUS, in hopes of overturning RvW. Probably a bridge too far. In any event, it's a states rights issue. I'm pleased it's a bill with defined procedural prohibition, vs. something nebulous like "second trimester". I am worried that it sounds like it doesn't make any exceptions. ...should for critical risk to mother's life, and maybe should for rape and incest. On the other hand, for rape and incest you can get an abortion right away... Publius: It is DJT that is keeping the GOP afloat, despite the huge crop of sanctimonious never-Ts.

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 9:40am

It's extremely concerning that this country is going backwards on issues such as this. Deciding on a procedure such as abortion should be a decision between a woman and her health care provider. It's one of the most difficult decisions a woman will ever make, and in the case of a wanted pregnancy that has gone horribly wrong, it is sorrowful beyond belief. I live in a heavily Republican district and it's depressing to me to see so many people who are not fully informed of issues and simply take the Fox News mantras.

And then?
Thu, 05/16/2019 - 10:21am

I"m curious how they can be all pro-life in the womb but then once the baby is born, what then? ANY call for assistance then? And if any of this anti-choice individuals is so pro-children, then why do we still have kids in the foster system and needing adoption? Hypocrite to the Nth degree, and their validity is shot.

Bob Balwinski
Thu, 05/16/2019 - 10:39am

I've read all this hoopla over abortion this and abortion that. What I need to know if it's true that the Republican legislature in MI is actually working on bills now to restrict a woman's right to vote. Since we're going backwards, that would be the next step. Anyone out there have a clue?

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 3:37pm

Right-to-lifers are confusing. They say aborting the unborn is murder. However, the laws they propose permit abortions if the mother's life is endangered. By their logic, how can it be morally acceptable to let one person live by murdering another? Same with their exceptions for rape and incest: following their logic, how do rape and incest justify the murder of an innocent person? One more hypocrisy: they want to imprison doctors who perform abortions, but not the women who request them. With other types of crime, all parties to the criminal act are considered guilty of it.

Thu, 05/16/2019 - 4:01pm

Can we start a petition to ban anyone who wants to control another adult's bodily functions?

Sally Finley
Sat, 05/18/2019 - 9:13am

Where can I find the petition...lets get this done!