Right to Life begins petition process to sidestep Whitmer veto on abortion legislation

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Right to Life of Michigan filed documents Wednesday for a petition drive they plan to use to bypass Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s expected veto on bills that ban dilation and evacuation abortions.

Lansing — Right to Life of Michigan filed documents Wednesday for a petition drive they plan to use to bypass Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s veto on bills that ban dilation and evacuation abortions.

The House and Senate passed separate bills Tuesday banning the common later-term abortion procedure after prolonged debate in the chambers.

Whitmer told reporters Tuesday she would veto the legislation and she sent an email from her campaign account the same day asking people to add their names and emails to show support in “the fight to defend women’s rights.”

The House and Senate would need a two-thirds majority to overturn Whitmer’s expected veto, larger than the majority that supported the measure Tuesday in votes that split along party lines.

“Governor Whitmer still has the chance to change her mind and do the right thing,” Right to Life of Michigan’s President Barbara Listing said in a statement. “If she won’t sign these bills to stop babies from having their arms and legs torn off, we’ll find 400,000 Michigan citizens who will sign it.”

Right to Life would need roughly 8% of the vote tally in the 2018 governor’s race, roughly 340,000.

The organization promised to send the initiative, called “Michigan Values Life: End Dismemberment Abortions,” straight to the state House and Senate for passage to sidestep the governor's veto pen, a maneuver that is allowed in the state Constitution.

Right to Life of Michigan has used petition drives to initiate laws in several instances, including the passage of 2014 abortion insurance legislation opposed by then-Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican.

Right to Life's Wednesday filing requires approval by the Board of State Canvassers before the group can begin collecting signatures. The group has been fielding “a large outpouring of requests to get involved.”

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan President and CEO Lori Carpentier opposed the effort in a statement Wednesday. 

“Right to Life and their cronies want nothing more than to make Michigan just like Alabama, no matter how much that harms the women and families facing these complex, complicated decisions," Carpentier said. 

Lawmakers supporting the effort to ban the procedure on Tuesday called it a “gruesome” practice performed in 1,777 cases in 2017.

The procedure involves dilation of a woman’s cervix, vacuum aspiration and surgical removal tissue from the uterus using instruments such as forceps. First-trimester abortions are more common.

The dilation and evacuation is sometimes preceded by an injection to kill the fetus.

Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, said Tuesday she finds it “incredibly frustrating” to see Right to Life plan a petition drive to try to ban the abortion procedure.

“It takes the onus away from medical professionals and families to make the decision,” she said of the policy. “Hopefully, we’ll just be able to get out there and talk to people about why this decision needs to stay with families and their medical providers.”

Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr, D-East Lansing, said the petition drive makes Right to Life look “desperate” heading into the 2020 election cycle that will see Democrats challenge President Donald Trump and other Republicans down ballot.

“They’re desperate for turnout in the Trump year,” he said. “Obviously, they have a president whose polling numbers are pretty poor right now. They just lost five seats in the (state) Senate this last election, five in the House. They’re worried about losing control, and they’re trying to do anything desperate to gin up their base.”

The petition comes a day after Alabama lawmakers gave final approval to a bill that would outlaw all abortions except in the case of a mother’s health. Alabama’s governor signed the legislation on Wednesday.

Last week, Georgia became the fourth state this year to ban abortion at six weeks of pregnancy, a policy based on the earliest point of gestation in which a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Georgia was preceded in passing the "heartbeat" bill by Mississippi, Kentucky and Ohio in 2019, Iowa in 2018 and North Dakota in 2013, according to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute.

Staff writer Jonathan Oosting contributed.


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