The petition to skirt Gov. Whitmer’s veto powers and ban the common dilation and evacuation abortion fell short of the required number of signatures.
MICHIGAN — Right to Life of Michigan has abandoned a petition drive to enact an extreme abortion ban in the state.
Since May 2019, the anti-abortion group has collected signatures to bypass Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s promised veto of legislation to ban dilation and evacuation, termed “dismemberment abortion” by opponents of the practice to politicize the safe and common medical procedure typically done after the first trimester.
But in June, based on a sampling of the signatures submitted, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers determined that the group had not collected the 340,047 valid signatures required.
Had Right to Life collected the required number of signatures, reports the Detroit Free Press, the group could have submitted the proposed legislation to the Republican-controlled legislature for approval — and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would not have had veto power over the measure.
State election officials made the determination after voting unanimously to allow a second sample to be drawn from the petition drive, an atypical move. The first sample “involved thousands of additional signatures thrown out for ‘damage’ by the Bureau of Elections,” according to Right to Life of Michigan, “despite text on many of those petitions being totally legible.”
What Caused RTL of Michigan’s Yearlong Effort to Fail?
But last week, even Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing had to face that the signatures the group collected were riddled with errors. In a July 21 statement, Listing announced the group will not challenge the state’s finding of insufficient signatures, instead focusing on the critical 2020 elections moving forward.
“We know we submitted signatures from more than 340,047 registered voters,” Listing said. “[T]he bulk of the errors were things beyond our control, specifically people not knowing their voter registration status or forgetting they already signed the petition.”
Listing said the biggest hurdle was the large turnout in the 2018 election. The number of signatures required to pass a petition is based on votes cast in the previous election, and 2018’s record-breaking turnout significantly increased the number of signatures the group had to collect.
Planned Parenthood of Michigan Responds
Lori Carpentier, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Michigan, said it was “unsurprising” that it proved impossible for the group to collect signatures in proportion to the number of Michigan voters who actually agree with their agenda and meet the new minimum number of signatures required to be certified.
“[Right to Life of Michigan] were prepared to let certain politicians dictate what treatment highly-trained doctors with decades of experience could recommend to their patients and force them to perform unnecessary procedures on pregnant people,” Carpentier said. “Of course, there was never any intention of putting this dangerous proposal before voters — as we all know, 77 percent of voters agree that we should keep abortion safe, legal and accessible.
“Right to Life has never been able to get their proposals enacted except using this method — one that requires the fewest possible people to enact an extreme agenda on millions.
“Not this time. Whether it was by negligence or whether it was an attempt to pad their numbers and hope no one would notice, Right to Life turned in thousands of invalid signatures with a shocking number of duplicates. This underscores just how little support there truly is for their anti-science, anti-medicine, anti-abortion agenda in Michigan.”
The Victory Goes to the Voters
Carpentier said the credit for this victory goes to all the pro-choice voters who turned out in 2018 to vote for reproductive health supporters like Gov. Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel.
In a 2019 Planned Parenthood of Michigan conference in Lansing, both first-term Democrats voiced strong support for a dramatically new approach to abortion and reproductive rights in the state during separate speeches.
“You’ve got a powerful backstop in a veto from my office,” Gov. Whitmer said, according to the Detroit News. “But the goal is not just to stop bad things from happening. It’s to set an agenda that respects women and girls and family planning.”
And AG Nessel spoke in reference to a suit she joined in March 2019 challenging a Trump administration rule that would bar organizations such as Planned Parenthood that provide reproductive health care, including abortion care, from receiving Title IX funding to cover things like sexually transmitted disease prevention, breast cancer screenings, and contraception.
“Let’s resist,” the attorney general said. “Let’s continue to fight back together, because without reproductive freedom, never again will we really be able to call ourselves the land of the free.”