The challenge facing the Michigan abortion rights ballot initiative

The Board of Canvassers will decide whether to certify the proposal for the November ballot this week.

FILE - Elder Leslie Mathews, an organizer with Michigan United, joins Leaders of the Reproductive Freedom for All campaign as they speak to supporters on July 11, 2022, in Lansing Mich., after turning in 753,759 signatures to qualify for Michigan's November ballot.

This week, the Michigan Board of Canvassers — consisting of two Republicans and two Democrats —  will decide whether to certify the Reproductive Freedom for All amendment proposal language for inclusion on the ballot in November. The amendment seeks to protect the fundamental right to make decisions about pregnancy, according to its proponents.

The vote will occur in the face of challenges made by groups opposed to the initiative. These challenges include efforts to disqualify the proposal due to formatting and language found in the amendment.

Last week, the Bureau of Elections made its recommendation to certify the proposal for November’s ballot. If the Board of States Canvassers fail to certify the initiative for the ballot by a majority 3-1 vote, it will set up a legal challenge in front of the Michigan Supreme Court.

“This is the kind of objection that you make when you’re desperate to really try and block something from the ballot.” — Mark Brewer, Reproductive Freedom for All ballot committee

Listen: What the Board of Canvassers decision means for the Reproductive Freedom Act.



Mark Brewer is an attorney for the Reproductive Freedom for All ballot committee and former chair of the Michigan Democratic Party. He says the board does not have authority to block the proposal from the ballot due to formatting issues.

“Because it takes three of the four votes to put something on the ballot, that gives somebody at least an ostensible reason to say no.” says Brewer. “They should do their duty — this should get certified 4-0.”

Loren Khogali is the executive director of the ACLU of Michigan and one of the leaders of the Reproductive Freedom for All ballot initiative campaign. She says the only issue facing the board Thursday is whether the advocates for the proposal met the signature requirement.

“The director of elections,” says Khogali, “who is non-partisan, has recommended certification to the ballot. And to ignore that would be a step toward disenfranchising voters across the state of Michigan and from 83 counties in the state.”

Photo Credit: Joey Cappelletti, AP

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