An activist holds a sign that reads 'REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS ARE WORKERS' RIGHTS.'
An activist expresses support for reproductive freedom on the Diag June 24.  Julianne Yoon/Daily.  Buy this photo.

Michigan voters will be deciding on the Reproductive Freedom for All initiative this November after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in favor of its appearance in the upcoming election. The ruling followed a split vote among the Michigan Board of State Canvassers, who appealed the decision to the state’s Supreme Court. The court ultimately ruled that the board’s concerns about formatting errors were not sufficient reason to block the ballot initiative.

Reproductive Freedom for All seeks to amend the state constitution to enshrine the right to abortion, contraceptives and other forms of reproductive health care. 

For a proposal to earn a place on the ballot, it must first collect hundreds of thousands of signatures to be submitted to the Board of State Canvassers for approval. This election cycle, constitutional amendments such as Reproductive Freedom for All must have collected 425,059 signatures to be submitted for approval. In July, the ballot proposal collected nearly 800,000 signatures, and the Michigan Bureau of Elections estimated that 596,379 of these signatures were valid.

LSA sophomore Miya Brado was a petition circulator for Reproductive Freedom for All and said she is excited to see an initiative that she worked hard to promote make it on the ballot this November.

“The day that I saw the announcement that we had gotten enough signatures was one of the best days ever because I was a little concerned just because Michigan is a swing state,” Brado said. “So it’s really great to see all this hard work finally pay off into something.” 

Madeline Trumbauer, an LSA alum currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in the School of Information, was also a circulator for this initiative. Trumbauer is the president of Students for Reproductive Rights and Justice and said the organization was working with a representative from Planned Parenthood before the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June, but the Supreme Court decision had heightened their sense of urgency. 

“I worked with our Planned Parenthood advisor, and she was preparing us to get a ballot initiative before Roe v. Wade was overturned,” Trumbauer said. “So in the spring of 2022, I was helping collect signatures for that. And then, over the summer, we learned that Roe v. Wade actually was overturned and it was just a shock.”

LSA senior Charles Hilu, chairman of Young Americans for Freedom, said he was not surprised that the amendment was approved for the ballot, but he still disagrees with the initiative and plans to support anti-abortion advocacy efforts in the weeks leading up to the election. 

“There was certainly a pro-abortion fervor in the states in the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, so it really wasn’t all that surprising for me,” Hilu said. “As for the next month leading up to elections, the work of the pro-life movement is still ongoing, and this is one of the ways in which the pro-life movement has to work.”

Brado said the petitioning process is an important part of elections because it ensures issues are brought forth through popular support.

“A ballot initiative is so important because it shows what the people want rather than what the politicians want and what’s going to help their agendas,” Brado said. “I just think it was really cool to see the people come out and put this on the ballot. And I think that it’s gonna get a lot more support on the ballot in November because … it was sourced by the people and put on the ballot by the people.”

A Detroit News/WDIV poll conducted in August 2022 found that 56.7% of Michiganders disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, 60.3% of Michigan voters said they would support a constitutional amendment to protect abortion access. 

In a statement to The Michigan Daily, the Michigan Catholics Pro-Life Ministry said they do not personally support the amendment on the basis of religious beliefs. 

“As Catholics, we believe that all life is a sacred gift from God,” the statement read. “It is never ours for the taking. All of us are called to protect the vulnerable who are under attack: the poor, the refugee, the elderly, and in this case, the unborn.”

Law School student Kol Chaiken said they believe placing the issue directly on the ballot will help resolve the legal uncertainty surrounding abortion access in Michigan right now, especially for health care providers.

“The reason why we’re anticipating that the ballot initiative is going to be the deciding factor is because the litigation sort of keeps flip-flopping,” Chaiken said. “There’s a really big concern among the medical community where they feel like they want to be able to provide abortions, but when things keep flip-flopping, they’re really worried about losing medical licenses because they didn’t get the update from the case that happened a week before.”

Brado said she believes resolving the legal confusion via ballot initiative would help Michiganders feel more secure in social and health care systems.

“This ballot initiative would really help because it’s not fair for women to constantly be living in fear of their reproductive rights being taken away,” Brado said. “So while they are instated right now in Michigan, it’s still not really a safe place for Michigan women just because this could be taken away at any minute.”

The decision to place Reproductive Freedom for All on the ballot follows Chief Judge Elizabeth Gleicher’s ruling that the state of Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban is unconstitutional. While an appeal to Gleicher’s ruling is expected, the law remains blocked by a preliminary injunction that prevents prosecutors from enforcing the ban. The injunction itself has already been subject to challenges by anti-abortion activists, but if enacted in November, the Reproductive Freedom for All amendment would repeal and replace the 1931 law entirely.

Chaiken added that there could be far-reaching legal repercussions from the overturning of Roe v. Wade, making protecting reproductive rights crucial for preventing spillover into other areas of healthcare.

“I think that law students and lawyers tend to have a keener understanding of how this debate around reproductive justice is going to affect other issues — the biggest one that comes to mind being birth control,” Chaiken said. “There are a lot of questions that come to mind about whether or not the fact that Roe v. Wade is no longer precedent is going to affect other cases involving reproductive rights and healthcare more generally.”

Trumbauer said the ballot initiative is an important next step, but that people need to continue having conversations about reproductive justice past this election cycle.

“People could really try to go out of their way to learn about women’s issues and empathize with them,” Trumbauer said. “The whole culture needs to change its narrative around who has jurisdiction over bodily autonomy.”

Daily Staff Reporter Samantha Rich can be reached at sammrich@umich.edu.