What Michigan’s Prop 3 Could Mean for National Abortion Rights

Ahead of the midterm elections, feminist and civil rights groups are urging Michiganders to vote yes to Proposal 3, a ballot measure that would add an amendment to the state constitution explicitly establishing the right to abortion, as well as a broad range of other reproductive healthcare, including prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, miscarriage management and infertility. 

A Reproductive Freedom For All rally in Lansing, Mich. (Courtesy of Darci McConnell)

The ballot measure will determine whether the state’s 1931-era abortion ban can remain on the books—a law prohibiting abortions without exceptions for rape, incest or health of the pregnant woman. (It only allows abortions that “preserve the life” of a patient.)

As it stands, abortion is currently legal in Michigan (restricted at the point of “viability,” which usually happens around 24 to 26 weeks of pregnancy), and the 1931 law is blocked by two state courts—but this is precarious, as the Michigan Supreme Court could lift those injunctions and put the law back into effect if the ballot measure fails. If the proposition passes, the state would become the first to overturn an anti-abortion state law since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. 

Proposal 3 was placed on the ballot by initiative petition, gathering more than 735,000 signatures—almost double the required minimum amount. 

“We know that the majority of Michiganders support keeping access to abortion rights, and we are fortunate to have had a record-breaking number of individuals sign a petition to get this measure on the ballot,” said Darci McConnell, communications director of Reproductive Freedom For All (RFFA), an organization fighting to restore abortion rights in Michigan. “Individuals from every county in Michigan were part of that number.”

“The next part is making sure they understand that this is on the ballot proposal,” she continued. “And also, what’s at stake: reverting to a 1931 ban that criminalizes abortion, even in cases of rape, incest and threat to the woman health.”

Like they did in Kansas, our radical opponents are doing everything they can to mislead from what this measure accomplishes, making claims that are flatly false, because they really want to revert to the 1931 ban. That’s been anticipated, but fairly egregious.

Darci McConnell
Darci McConnell, second from left, and RFFA senior leadership—including Nicole Wells Stallworth, head of Planned Parenthood of Michigan in the black shirt—await the Michigan supreme court ruling to order that Prop 3 be placed on the ballot. (Courtesy of Darci McConnell)

Michigan’s Proposal 3 is one of five ballot measures this election season that’s focused on abortion across the U.S.—the most on record for any single year. 

And this summer, Kansas primary voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed the Republican-dominated state legislature to severely restrict access to abortion. Fifty-nine percent voted against the proposed amendment, in an election that saw a resounding turnout compared to 2018’s midterm primary.

Turnout among young voters in the upcoming midterms is expected to match or exceed the record set in 2018, according to polling from the Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard Kennedy School. The poll showed 40 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds say they will “definitely” vote in the Nov. 8 midterms. Moreover, abortion and women’s rights are proving to be highly motivating issues in determining women’s vote, particularly among young women voters, according to Ms. magazine and Feminist Majority Foundation polling by Lake Research Partners.

“What we are seeing is multiple generations—a grandmother who fought and still could not access the right. Maybe they thought their daughter could. And then that daughter, or their grandchild, is now looking at a universe where they may not be able to access those rights,” said McConnell. “People will say, ‘I thought this was resolved,’ or ‘I can’t imagine having my daughter not be able to access the care that they need.’ That’s why Proposal 3 matters.”

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.

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Roxy Szal is the managing digital editor at Ms. and a producer on the Ms. podcast On the Issues With Michele Goodwin. She is also a mentor editor for The OpEd Project. Before becoming a journalist, she was a Texas public school English teacher. She is based in Austin, Texas. Find her on Twitter @roxyszal.