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Michigan voters may weigh ballot issues on abortion, LGBTQ, lobbying reforms

Michigan voters can change state law or the state Constitution through ballot initiatives. If the initiative is a proposed law change, the Legislature first gets the option to approve the law itself. If it decides not to take a vote or the vote fails, the proposed law goes to the general election ballot.

Recent changes to state minimum wage laws, redistricting procedures, voting rights and the legalization of recreational marijuana were all the result of successful ballot initiatives.

Groups have 180 days to gather valid signatures once they begin circulating petitions. Signatures to bring forward citizen-initiated legislation are due May 27, and signatures for constitutional amendments are due July 6, so the existing initiatives may change.  

As of February, four potential ballot initiatives could appear on the Nov. 3 ballot:

Add LGBTQ protections to anti-discrimination law

Michigan law bars discrimination in employment and housing on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial or marital status. 

This ballot initiative, brought by a coalition of business and advocacy groups called Fair and Equal Michigan, would include LGBTQ residents in that law.

Ban dilation and evacuation abortions

This ballot initiative, spearheaded by Right to Life of Michigan, would ban a common second-trimester abortion procedure called dilation and evacuation (D&E). Opponents of the method call it “dismemberment abortion.”

The method involves dilating the cervix and removing the fetus using forceps, vacuum extraction or scraping the lining of the uterus. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say it is associated with fewer complications than using medication to end a pregnancy. It is common for second-semester abortions but is used in a small fraction of abortions overall.

Legislative leaders support the proposal and are likely to adopt it into law to avoid a vote, but Gretchen Whitmer has promised a veto.

Reform state lobbying rules

The Coalition to Close Lansing Loopholes, funded primarily by liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan, is launching a ballot initiative to dramatically change Michigan lobbying laws. 

Among other things, this would ban lobbyists giving anything of value to public officials; require a two-year “cooling-off” period before a former state elected official could become a lobbyist; require lobbyists to report all their expenses; and require both public officials and lobbyists to keep a public log of their lobbying actions, including meetings.

Ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected

The Michigan Heartbeat Coalition, a group unrelated to Right to Life of Michigan, launched a ballot initiative drive to ban abortion after cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy.

The proposal would include an exception for cases in which abortion is necessary to save a woman’s life, and would not have an exception for pregnancies from rape or incest. It would make it a felony punishable by two to four years in prison for health care providers to perform abortions after cardiac activity is detected. The group has said it’s designed to provide an opportunity to challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that guaranteed the right to abortion.

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