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If the US Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, more than 2 million people could lose the ability to make their own family planning choices in Michigan. A 1931 law banning abortion across the state remains on the books and would likely go back into effect.

Need to Know

  • Sixty-six percent of likely voters believe the government “should not interfere in reproductive rights” and that families and individuals should have control over their family planning decisions
  • If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, more than 2 million people could lose access to abortion in Michigan, where a 1931 law banning the procedure remains on the books and would likely go back into effect.
  • A coalition of reproductive rights advocates are backing a ballot measure that seeks to amend the state constitution in order to guarantee women the ability to seek an abortion before fetal viability. If they succeed, the amendment would override the 1931 ban.

UPDATE (May 3): The Supreme Court has voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to a draft majority opinion obtained by Politico. Justice John Roberts confirmed that the leak was authentic. The court has not formally announced its decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case, and votes can still change.

MICHIGAN—This time next year, abortion could be illegal in Michigan and doctors who offer this care could be charged with a felony, even as new poll results show such government overreach is deeply unpopular. 

Two in three likely voters in the US—including nearly half of Republicans—believe the government “should not interfere in reproductive rights” and that families and individuals should have control over their reproductive decisions, according to a new Courier Newsroom/Data for Progress poll. Conversely, only 28% of respondents believe the government should be able to make decisions about reproductive rights.

And yet, sometime in the next few months, the US Supreme Court will rule on a 2018 Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks, allowing them only in case of medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormalities. If the Court upholds the law, which has been blocked by lower courts, it would effectively contradict its own ruling in Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that banned states from prohibiting abortions before fetal viability, which occurs around 23 to 24 weeks. 

In oral arguments in December, the 6-3 conservative court appeared ready to affirm the Mississippi law, with at least four right-wing justices indicating they might overrule Roe altogether and allow states to once again ban all abortions. 

The consequences of such a decision could be devastating for women in Michigan, where a 1931 law banning abortion across the state remains on the books and would likely go back into effect if Roe were to be overturned. Under that state law, it would once again be a felony for medical providers to perform abortions, unless it’s to save the life of a pregnant woman.

Most Voters Are Unaware of the Impending Threat to Roe v. Wade

While voters disapprove of the government interfering with a person’s reproductive choices, the survey of 1,193 likely voters also found that most Americans remain broadly unaware that a woman’s constitutional right to abortion is at risk of being taken away by Republicans. 

Seventy-three percent of likely voters have heard little or nothing at all about the case before the Supreme Court, according to the poll. 

When they do hear about it though, they oppose it. Fifty-one percent of voters said they oppose the Court overturning or weakening Roe, while only 39% said they support such an action. 

The poll also found that 61% of likely voters, including six in 10 independents and nearly half of Republicans, would be very or somewhat concerned about the Court  taking away access to safe and legal abortion.

Defending the Right to Make Family Planning Decisions Is Popular

If the Court overturns Roe, abortion would almost certainly become illegal in more than 20 states, including Michigan. Family planning advocates say more than 2 million people would be impacted by such a decision.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been a staunch defender of abortion rights and called on Michigan lawmakers to repeal the 1931 law, but the Republican-led legislature has refused to do so. Attorney General Dana Nessel has also said she would refuse to enforce such a ban, if it became active again.

On Thursday, Whitmer filed a lawsuit asking the Michigan Supreme Court to recognize a constitutional right to an abortion under the Michigan Constitution and to stop enforcement of the 1931 ban, arguing it violates the state Constitution.

“However we personally feel about abortion, a woman’s health, not politics, should drive important medical decisions. A woman must be able to make her own medical decisions with the advice of a healthcare professional she trusts – politicians shouldn’t make that decision for her,” Whitmer said in a statement. “A near total abortion ban would rob women of their reproductive freedom and the ability to decide whether and when to have a child. It also would rob women of their economic freedom and their right to decide whether to become a parent: the biggest economic decision a woman will make in her lifetime.”

Standing up for abortion rights appear to be a popular stance, as 54% of respondents to the poll said they would be more likely to vote for a political candidate who was upfront and outspoken about defending reproductive rights and protecting access to abortion. Only 23% of likely voters said they’d be less likely to vote for such a candidate, while another 23% said it wouldn’t affect their choice.

Ample other evidence also backs up the notion that voters support reproductive rights. A January survey from Glengariff found that 67% of Michigan voters support keeping Roe v. Wade in place and 66% want to repeal the 1931 law.

That hasn’t stopped Republicans from attacking abortion rights and defending the 1931 statute.

Michigan Republicans Want to Outlaw All Abortions

Leading candidates in the Republican gubernatorial primary— James Craig, Kevin Rinke, Garrett Soldano, and Tudor Dixon—have said they would support the 1931 statute, and Soldano has said that even women who are raped should not have abortions and should instead be “heroic” and carry their pregnancy to term.

The Republican candidates for Attorney General—Matthew DePerno, Tom Leonard, and Ryan Berman—have also said they would enforce the ban and prosecute violations as state AG. 

As Bridge Michigan reported, more than 40 Republicans in the state legislature and six of Michigan’s seven Republican members of Congress have also signed onto legal briefs asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe.

At the state level, Rep. Steve Carra (R-Three Rivers) even introduced a bill last October seeking to ban most abortions and imprison doctors who perform them. 

A New Effort to Protect Reproductive Rights in Michigan

These efforts have drawn condemnation from reproductive rights activists, many of whom are now fighting back with a petition drive that seeks to amend the state constitution in order to protect abortion rights. 

If organizers of the effort—which is backed by the ACLU of Michigan, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan,and Michigan Voices—can collect 425,059 valid signatures of registered voters by July 11, voters will vote this November on whether women should be allowed to seek abortions before fetal viability. If they succeed, the amendment would override the 1931 ban.

“Michiganders deserve to make reproductive health decisions for themselves, period,” Loren Khogali, Executive Director of ACLU of Michigan, said in a January statement. “Now is the moment for us to come together to protect this fundamental right for Michigan as we hold our collective breath for the Supreme Court’s ruling.  It is an all-hands-on-deck moment, and we will pursue every option available to secure reproductive freedom for all Michiganders.”

Whether the Republican war on abortion rights succeeds or not remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: A majority of American voters believe abortion should remain legal. 

Survey Methodology: From March 30 to April 2, 2022, Data for Progress conducted a survey of 1,193 likely voters nationally using web panel respondents. The sample was weighted to be representative of likely voters by age, gender, education, race, and voting history. The survey was conducted in English. The margin of error is ±3 percentage points. 

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include details on Whitmer’s lawsuit.

READ MORE: Michigan GOP Candidate for Governor: Women Who Are Raped Shouldn’t Have Abortions Because It’s Not ‘Heroic’