Right-wing activists could force Michigan to pass dangerous laws that voters don't want

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Anti-choice groups in Michigan have found a way to bypass both the people and the governor in their zeal to ban abortion.

Michigan conservatives want to impose incredibly restrictive abortion bans that would make women suffer, that most people in Michigan don't support, and that the state's governor would veto if they were passed like normal laws.

But right-wing activists in Michigan have figured out a way to get around the normal democratic process and pass the bans anyway.

Michigan's law on citizen-initiated referendums has a huge loophole, the Guardian reports. The law allows groups to amend the state's constitution through ballot initiatives, which, if they get enough signatures, can then be voted on.

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But if a proposal gets enough signatures to qualify for the ballot — about 340,000, or just 4% of the electorate — the state legislature also has the option of simply passing it into law before people get the chance to vote on it. And the governor doesn't get the chance to veto the measure.

Two anti-choice activist groups in Michigan, Right to Life and the Heartbeat Coalition, are planning to take advantage of this shockingly anti-democratic loophole to force through two extreme abortion bans: one that would ban abortion after six weeks, before most women know they're pregnant, and another that would ban the safest and most common method of second-trimester abortion —dilation and evacuation, otherwise known as D&E.

Anti-choice activists disagree on whether the six-week ban or the D&E ban is a better approach to restricting women's right to abortion. But both bills are extreme, and either one could easily become law using this loophole and with the cooperation of the GOP-controlled state legislature.

The Michigan House of Representatives passed its own D&E ban back in May. The Michigan State Medical Society, which represents more than 15,000 doctors in the state, said the proposed ban would "hinder physician discretion to act within the standards of good medical practice and in the best interest of the patient," and pointed out that a D&E is preferred because "it results in the fewest complications for women compared to alternative procedures."

Even though lawmakers knew that alternative procedures can be riskier and more painful, the House and Senate both passed versions of the bill.

Republican Sen. Kim LaSata said that because she regretted her own attempt at ending a pregnancy, she now thinks that abortion for all other women "should be hard, and the procedure should be painful, and you should allow God to take over, and you should deliver that baby, and you should handle the situation."

Michigan's new Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, promised to immediately veto the bill, and both chambers know they don't have the votes to overcome a veto. The Michigan electorate also overwhelmingly opposes the D&E ban.

So, with the cooperation of the GOP, right-wing activist groups are going to ram through an anti-choice law without a majority of the citizens of the state voting on it — and without giving Whitmer, who won the election in 2018 by over 400,000 votes, the chance to veto the bill.

Right to Life says they have the right to do this because "a majority of voters" installed a pro-life legislature in Michigan. That's patently untrue. Michigan is heavily gerrymandered, which ensures GOP wins even when, as in 2018, the statewide electoral count is strongly in favor of Democratic politicians and values.

The GOP knows how to get around its minority status. After gerrymandered districts helped Republicans preserve their majority in 2018, they've gutted a sick leave measure favored by voters, tried to limit the authority of incoming state-level Democrats, and undermined already-passed ballot measures.

In short, Michigan Republicans have no intention of ever honoring the will of their own state's voters.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.