Board puts abortion rights question on Michigan fall ballot

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LANSING, Mich. — A Michigan election board placed an abortion-rights proposal on the fall ballot Friday, obeying an order from the state’s highest court and closing a record-breaking petition drive to try to amend the state constitution.

The amendment would affirm the right to make pregnancy-related decisions without interference in Michigan, including abortion and other reproductive services such as birth control.

The Michigan Supreme Court a day earlier ordered the Board of State Canvassers to put it on the Nov. 8 ballot. The board, comprised of two Democrats and two Republicans, had killed the proposal in a tie vote last week, with GOP members siding with abortion opponents who said the petition had improper or no spacing between certain words.

Chief Justice Bridget McCormack derisively called it a “game of gotcha gone very bad.” She said the words were legible and in correct order.

People cheered and applauded when the board voted 4-0 Friday to add it to the ballot.

“We’ve gotten that clarity,” said Republican board member Tony Daunt, who didn’t address McCormack’s criticism. “There was never any doubt in my mind that once the court spoke what we were going to do.”

The other GOP member, Richard Houskamp, denied any partisanship in rejecting the proposal on Aug. 31.

Supporters had submitted more than 750,000 signatures, easily clearing the minimum threshold and setting a record for a Michigan ballot initiative.

Abortion has remained legal in the state even after the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade. A 1931 law that makes it a crime to perform most abortions was suspended by a judge last spring and declared unconstitutional this week.

But that decision can be appealed. If voters approve the constitutional amendment guaranteeing abortion rights, any legal fight would be moot.

A poll published this week by The Detroit News and WDIV-TV showed abortion and women’s rights as the top issue motivating Michigan residents to vote in November, ahead of inflation, education and the economy. The poll showed a majority of likely voters supporting the amendment to protect abortion rights.

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White reported from Detroit.

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Joey Cappelletti is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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