Updated, 4:30 p.m., 8/28/19
As organizers of two anti-abortion ballot initiatives are gathering signatures around the state, a new group is working to put together a repeal referendum in case they’re successful.
The Michigan Heartbeat Coalition’s proposal would ban abortions at the first sign of cardiac activity, usually within the first six to eight weeks. The second initiative, proposed by Right to Life of Michigan, would ban the dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion procedure, which it calls “dismemberment abortion.”
Pledge to Repeal is the group seeking to counter these proposals.
In May, the GOP-led House and Senate passed bills that would make it illegal to perform a D&E, a standard procedure during the second term of pregnancy. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer promised to veto these bills.
If the anti-abortion groups collect the 340,047 signatures required to get on the 2020 ballot, the measures are expected to be adopted by the Legislature first. Whitmer would not have the power to veto them.
“If these groups really had the votes to do this, they wouldn’t have to go through the backdoor to do it,” said Pledge to Repeal founder Andrea Geralds, a Macomb Township Democrat who unsuccessfully ran last year for state representative in the 33rd District.
The Pledge to Repeal campaign began on June 19 after the anti-abortion initiatives were approved by the Board of State Canvassers.
Attempts to implement abortion bans aren’t just taking place in Michigan, and are part of a national trend. In 2019, nine states passed bans to limit legal rights to the procedure. Alabama passed an outright ban on abortion, even in cases of rape or incest.
As a referendum on legislation, Pledge to Repeal must submit 212,530 signatures within 90 days of the legislative session in which the initiatives were passed, according to the Secretary of State.
Geralds said that the group is working toward a goal of collecting more than 340,047 signatures if the measures go into law — the same amount required of the other initiatives — to eliminate any questions of popular support.
The two anti-abortion initiatives must have all valid signatures submitted to the Bureau of Elections by May 27, 2020. If those ballot measures are passed, Geralds says Pledge to Repeal will then get its petition language approved by the Board of State Canvassers and begin the 90-day process to obtain signatures.
The organization plans to take a different approach to reach voters. Leaders are currently building a database of emails and ZIP codes to streamline the process when the organization is ready to ask for signatures. Once the petition is approved, Pledge to Repeal will send volunteers out to homes or events to meet with interested constituents.
“There are women who live in places where they don’t feel safe admitting they are pro-choice,” Geralds said. “We want to make sure that any person who wants to sign doesn’t feel targeted or attacked.”
The group is meeting with individuals and organizations from each congressional district. While working to get the word out, Geralds says they are not asking for support from lobbying groups or lawmakers.
“We want to make sure that this is an individual choice,” she said.
Angela Vasquez-Giroux, Planned Parenthood of Michigan communications director*, said the abortion rights organization is not formally supporting any repeal initiatives to the anti-abortion bans.
“It’s great to see others working to create this change,” Vasquez-Giroux said. “But our status remains unchanged and we are still researching possibilities.”
Previously, the Michigan Advance asked Planned Parenthood of Michigan if it had plans for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to privacy in case the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, thus making abortion illegal in Michigan.
Lori Carpentier, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan and Planned Parenthood of Michigan, stated the group was “trying to figure out what is the most viable thing that would reflect the will of the people of Michigan.”
* This story has been updated with Vasquez-Giroux’s correct title.