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Voters Will Decide The Future Of Abortion Rights In Michigan

On Election Day, Michigan voters will vote on an amendment that could enshrine the right to abortion in the state’s constitution. This comes after an abortion law from 1931 was ruled enforceable following the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June. Abortion is currently legal in the state, because of the ruling against the 1931 law. However, without the amendment, that law could end up banning abortion in most cases.


Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux: This year’s midterm elections have been all about abortion — on the airwaves, in debates and in interviews with candidates. But in most cases, voters aren’t directly deciding whether abortion will remain legal.

Except in Michigan.

On Election Day, Michigan voters will vote on whether abortion should be a protected right under the state’s constitution. The stakes are really high. Michigan has an abortion ban on the books that dates back to 1931. Abortion is still legal in the state because several judges have ruled that the law probably violates the state’s constitution. But those rulings are temporary.

If the amendment fails, the Michigan Supreme Court could rule that the 1931 law doesn’t violate the constitution — which would make abortion illegal in almost all cases.

Several other states have constitutional amendments on their ballot that would make existing protections for abortion more permanent. But Michigan’s is the only one that could actually change how easy it is to get an abortion in the state.

Abortion is also a major issue for the governor’s race in Michigan. The current governor, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, supports abortion rights. She’s argued that if she’s reelected, she’ll fight to preserve abortion access — regardless of what happens with the amendment.

Whitmer: “We know that our fundamental rights are very much at risk right now. I am fighting for our right to choose.”

Thomson-DeVeaux: Meanwhile, her opponent, Republican Tudor Dixon, opposes abortion in most cases — but says it’s up to the voters to decide.

Dixon: “I am pro-life with exceptions for life of the mother. But I understand that this is going to be decided by the people of the state of Michigan or by a judge.”

Thomson-DeVeaux: So — what’s likely to happen? Well, some recent polls indicate that the amendment has majority support, but it’s not a done deal. For instance, an Emerson College poll conducted from October 12-14 found that 52 percent of Michigan voters plan to vote in favor of the amendment, while 38 percent plan to vote against, and 10 percent are undecided. But other polls have shown higher and lower levels of support.

And Whitmer? Well, she’s looking pretty good. Our forecast gives her almost a 9-in-10 chance of winning, though that’s never a guarantee.

If the amendment passes and Whitmer wins, it’ll be a big victory for abortion-rights advocates — and we could see more constitutional amendments protecting abortion proposed in other states soon.

Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux is a senior editor and senior reporter for FiveThirtyEight.

Sophia Lebowitz is a former video producer at FiveThirtyEight.


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