State review: Anti-abortion petition falls short by 7K signatures

Women's March, Detroit | Ken Coleman

After a review of signatures by the Bureau of Elections (BOE), the initiative aimed to ban the dilation and evacuation abortion procedure (D&E) filed by Michigan Values Life, a coalition of anti-abortion groups, is over 7,000 signatures short of the required amount. 

Because of the shortcomings, BOE staff recommends that the Board of State Canvassers deny certification of the petition. 

The initiative seeks to ban the D&E procedure commonly used in the second trimester and make it a felony for doctors to perform it unless the mother’s life is endangered.

On June 1, the Coalition to Protect Access to Care (CPAC), a ballot committee formed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, filed a complaint stating that 65 of the 500 signatures used in its sample were invalid.

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Of these, BOE staff rejected 20 of the challenges made by CPAC and another 24 of the challenges coincided with staff findings, but 22 of the challenges were accepted.

Michigan Values Life attempted to rebut eight of the challenged signatures and one sampled signature that was not challenged. However, the BOE only accepted two rebuttals. 

“The Bureau of Elections found the same severe deficiencies in the Right to Life petitions as our staff and volunteers did, and we hope the Board of Canvassers follows their recommendation and declines to certify,” said Angela Vasquez-Giroux, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan. “Our review suggests the total number of invalid signatures on duplicates alone could be much higher than what the sample indicates. Right to Life’s desperate attempts to rehabilitate signatures suggests they know we’re right.”

The anti-abortion group needed to collect 340,047 signatures to get on the November ballot, but only 332,771 signatures submitted were valid. If there are enough signatures, the Michigan Legislature would have the option to adopt the petition before it goes to voters. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who supports abortion rights, cannot veto it.

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In December, Michigan Values Life claimed to have filed 379,419 signatures. Right to Life of Michigan (RTLM) is a member of the group.

“We are extremely disappointed. We know we submitted signatures from more than 340,047 registered voters. We’re going to take our case to the Board of State Canvassers, which has the final say. This petition drive has been one uphill battle after another for more than a year now, but the fight is not over,” said RTLM  President Barbara Listing. 

In regard to the signatures challenged by Planned Parenthood, Listing said she believes the Michigan Values Life submitted enough counter-challenges for a larger sample to be pulled. 

The Board of State Canvassers is expected to meet Thursday to make a decision on the petition.