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Multiple efforts to keep abortion legal in Michigan

Cheyna Roth and Jake Neher breaks down several different efforts to maintain abortion rights in Michigan if Roe v. Wade is overturned this year.


Jake Neher: This is MichMash, a weekly conversation where we unjumble an important, and sometimes under-the-radar, statewide issue that affects you. I'm Jake Neher.

Cheyna Roth: And I'm Cheyna Roth. As we've discussed on MichMash recently, Michigan would revert to one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe versus Wade, which all signs are pointing that it's very likely to do. Michigan's law, which dates all the way back to 1846, makes it a felony to carry out an abortion except when it's necessary to save the life of the mother.

Jake Neher: That Supreme Court decision on the future of Roe is expected in the next couple of months. The leaders in states like Michigan aren't waiting around. The assumption, in many places,
is that it will be up to individual states to decide whether women have legal access to abortion services in a post-Roe world. And now, abortion rights supporters here in Michigan are showing that they're ready to fight.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer: "We're going straight to the Michigan Supreme Court to ask that they acknowledge women have the right to privacy. The right to bodily autonomy under our due process clause and the equal protection clause of the Michigan Constitution. So, no matter how muddled Roe gets of the national level. Michigan women will have those rights going forward."

Cheyna Roth: That's the voice of governor Gretchen Whitmer on MSNBC just hours after filing a lawsuit in the Oakland Circuit court. As you heard in that clip, she's asking the Michigan Supreme Court to answer the questions that she poses in the case. That would bypass lower courts in this attempt to establish a state right to abortion here in Michigan. Essentially, she's saying Michigan Supreme Court, make this state an abortion safe zone.

Jake Neher: But that's not the only effort here to make sure that women have access to abortion services even if Roe is overturned. The same day that Governor Whitmer announced her lawsuit, Planned Parenthood of Michigan and the ACLU of Michigan filed their own lawsuit to block enforcement of the state's abortion ban if it once again takes effect. And that's really interesting because they named the Michigan Department of Attorney General as the defendant in that case. Of course, Michigan's Attorney General, Dana Nessel, is a Democrat who strongly supports abortion rights.
She's announced that she's refusing to defend the state's abortion ban in that case, and that means the state legislature might have to end up intervening as sort of a de facto defendant instead.

Cheyna Roth: And as if that wasn't enough, hold on tight. There's more! There's also a petition campaign gathering signatures to enshrine abortion rights in Michigan's Constitution. The group Reproductive Freedom for All will need to collect more than 425,000 signatures to get its question on the November ballot. If that happens, and voters approve it, that puts an explicit right to abortion in the state Constitution. But abortion opponents are using this to criticize Governor Whitmer's lawsuit. They question why the governor is claiming the state Constitution already protects abortion rights while this group tries to change the constitution to legalize abortion. I apologize if I just gave you a headache.

Jake Neher: There's also legislation at the state capitol that would simply get rid of the old abortion ban that's currently on the books. It would just go away under legislation sponsored by Democratic State Senator Erika Geiss of Taylor. But you can probably guess how far that's likely to go in the a Senate chamber dominated by Republicans.

Cheyna Roth: So, basically whether or not any of these efforts are successful, we're still probably a long way from knowing what life after Roe looks like in Michigan.