Republicans want to overturn the votes of 2.5 million Michiganders who backed abortion rights

By Kyle Kaminski

November 8, 2023

Three Republican state lawmakers and anti-abortion groups filed a federal lawsuit that seeks to peel back the constitutional right to reproductive freedom in Michigan, which was approved by about 2.5 million voters last year.

MICHIGAN—A lawsuit filed in federal court this week by the anti-abortion group Right to Life and three Republican state lawmakers aims to overturn the will of Michigan voters who enshrined the constitutional right to reproductive health care into the state constitution last year.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, according to reports in the Detroit News. The plaintiffs include three anti-abortion groups, as well as state Sen. Joe Bellino (R-Monroe) and state Reps. Gina Johnsen (R-Lake Odessa), and Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville).

And if the suit is successful, a judge could step in and order a permanent injunction to overturn Proposal 3, which was passed with about 57% of the vote last year and effectively ensures that nobody will ever be prosecuted with a crime for providing or receiving an abortion in Michigan.

Here’s the Deal:

Despite Republican-led efforts to spread misinformation about Proposal 3, Michigan voters turned out in full force last November to the ballot initiative and cement the right to reproductive freedom—including abortion care—into the state Constitution. The amendment passed by voters clearly stated that all Michiganders now have a specific right to reproductive freedom.

That includes the right to make and carry out any and all pregnancy-related decisions (including abortion) and it bars the state from enacting any laws or regulations that would infringe upon those basic human rights without a “compelling state interest in the health” of the patient.

Lawmakers have also taken that further by repealing a nearly 100-year-old state law that had criminalized abortion care in Michigan, as well as other restrictions on abortion providers.

In doing so, Michigan has emerged as a nationwide beacon for choice and bodily autonomy—much to the chagrin of Republican lawmakers, who lost their legislative majority in Michigan but still repeatedly tried (and failed) to reinstate restrictions on abortion this year.

‘Because they can’t win with voters’

After failing to convince enough voters to reject Proposal 3 outright at the polls last year, anti-abortion groups and Republican lawmakers are now taking the extraordinary step of asking a federal judge to declare the constitutional amendment itself to be unconstitutional.

“At no time in our nation’s history has such a super-right, immune from all legislative action, ever been created by a popular vote outside of the checks and balances of a republican form of government,” anti-abortion advocates and Republican lawmakers contend in the complaint.

The lawsuit essentially argues that the ballot language approved by voters creates so many new constitutional rights that it conflicts with the First and Fourteenth amendments of the US Constitution and the ability for lawmakers to tinker with reproductive rights in the future.

Among other things, the suit also contends “children in the womb” have “an interest in life” that should be protected by 14th Amendment, which prohibits states from depriving any person of “life, liberty or property” without due process of law, according to reports from Bridge Michigan.

“For the law to turn a blind eye to the existence of this innocent human life and thus deny it the legal protection every human life deserves defies irrefutable biological facts, logic, and commonsense, and it is nothing short of evil,” attorneys wrote in the 36-page lawsuit.

In a statement, Whitmer’s press secretary Stacey LaRouche told the Detroit News that “right-wing organizations and radical Republicans” are “cherry picking courts to try to once again overturn a constitutionally guaranteed right because they can’t win with voters.”

“Michiganders spoke loud and clear in the last election when they voted overwhelmingly to protect the constitutional freedom for people to make their own decisions about their bodies,” LaRouche said. “Gov. Whitmer thwarted attempts to undermine reproductive rights when the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, and she will do it again with this lawsuit.”

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan has also blasted the suit as an effort to undermine Michigan voters and “strip them of their fundamental right to reproductive freedom.”

“As we saw last year in Michigan and again last night in Ohio: abortion is a winning issue. The Republican party knows it, too, but rather than admit that they are dramatically out of step with American values and American voters, they resort to dirty tactics like these instead,” Planned Parenthood of Michigan CEO Paula Thornton Greear said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press. “This baseless lawsuit is nothing but a brazen political attempt to overturn the will of the people and impose dangerous anti-abortion policies on an electorate that doesn’t want them.”

Since the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year, abortion has now been banned or more tightly restricted in 21 states, reports the New York Times. Michigan is among 21 states that have enacted new legal protections for abortion in the wake of the ruling.

READ MORE: Reproductive Health Act returns ‘power of personal choice’ in Michigan

For the latest Michigan news, follow The ‘Gander on Twitter.

Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.

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