Michigan Is About To Enact New Abortion Restrictions Without The Governor’s Approval

CREDIT: Thomas Gennara

Michigan's state capitol building

Michigan may soon join the 23 other states that ban abortion coverage in the plans sold on Obamacare’s new insurance marketplaces, obstructing women’s abortion access by requiring them to purchase an entirely separate insurance rider for that procedure. But if that policy becomes law in the state, it won’t be because Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed it. In fact, Syder vetoed that type of legislation last year, saying it went too far to interfere in the private insurance market.

So how will the new abortion restriction get codified into law? The anti-choice community is circumventing the governor altogether to force the issue through with the support of conservative lawmakers.

After last year’s attempt to get the bill passed through the state’s normal legislative process fell short, Michigan’s anti-choice activists began considering other strategies. They have been circulating a petition to provoke a “citizen-initiated” vote on the issue, and they submitted the necessary signatures on Friday to do so. If state lawmakers approve the measure, it will immediately become law without Snyder’s signature. And if lawmakers reject it, it’s not dead yet — it will be placed on the 2014 ballot and put up for voters’ consideration.

It’s a familiar strategy for the social conservatives who are relentlessly pushing their anti-choice agenda. “We’ve been successful (with petition drives) in the past,” Pam Sherstad, the director of public information for Right to Life of Michigan, explained over the summer. “We’re a statewide organization that works in communities across Michigan, and we’ve had an enthusiastic response to this effort.”

The group doesn’t see an issue with this process, since it’s confident it has enough support among Michigan’s conservative legislature. “It’s the governor’s veto we’re bypassing. This is citizen democracy,” Ed Rivet, a spokesperson for Michigan Right to Life, told MLive.

Women’s health advocates, however, are fighting back. The Planned Parenthood affiliate in the state is hoping to remind voters that the measure was so extreme that it didn’t have Snyder’s support, even though the governor is opposed to abortion. It doesn’t have an exception for rape victims, and anti-choice activists suggested earlier this year that paying extra money to terminate a pregnancy resulting from rape is the same thing as paying extra money for car insurance.

“By no means is this a done deal. Legislators are going to hear from our folks about no exceptions for rape, incest and health risks to the mothers,” Megan Groen of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan told the Detroit Free Press. “If the question were before all the voters, it would be defeated because it’s an unprecedented overreach by the government.”

Michigan isn’t the only state where abortion opponents have pursued this tactic. Last spring, the Arkansas legislature overrode their governor’s veto to enact two unconstitutional abortion bans into law — first, a 20-week ban, and then an extremely harsh 12-week ban. Under Arkansas law, a simple majority is enough to bypass the governor. At the time, the 12-week ban was the harshest abortion restriction in the nation (although North Dakota, not to be outdone, soon surpassed it with a six-week ban).