What it will and won’t do

A battle over 317 words could decide whether abortion remains legal in Michigan. 

Those words make up the proposed amendment that would enshrine abortion rights in the Michigan Constitution if the state’s elections panel certifies it for placement on the November ballot and voters approve it. 

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that had guaranteed a national constitutional right to an abortion for nearly half a century, leaving the legal status of abortions up to individual states.

Abortion is still legal in Michigan after courts have issued temporary orders barring enforcement of a 1931 ban on the procedure in response to lawsuits filed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Planned Parenthood of Michigan.

Their legal challenges argue that the Michigan Constitution protects the right to an abortion. It is not clear that rulings on those pending lawsuits will ultimately side with those arguments.

What it will and won’t do

But if the “Reproductive Freedom for All” amendment lands a spot on the ballot this November and voters adopt it, the Michigan Constitution would spell out an explicit right to abortions in the state.

Marchers head through Greektown in downtown Detroit during the Reproductive Rights March: Fight for Abortion Justice in Detroit on October 2, 2021.
The rally and march through downtown started at 36th District Court where speakers talked about abortion-rights and what is happening in parts of the country with a woman's right to choose.

The full ramifications of the amendment are unknown. As is often the case with changes to the Constitution, lawsuits and court rulings ultimately decide the exact meaning of particular phrases in an amendment and how to apply those words in an everyday context. State lawmakers could also craft legislation aimed at regulating the right to an abortion proposed in the amendment, which may themselves be subject to legal challenges.


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