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In a Nutshell
For over 50 years, a right to abortion in the earlier stages of pregnancy was protected by the U.S. Constitution. Recently, the United States Supreme Court revoked those protections, leaving the status of abortion access in flux across the country. States are now responsible for reviving, enacting, or amending their own legislative provisions regarding abortion. In Michigan, a law originally established in 1846 that prohibits most abortions has remained unenforceable due to federal protection but could become active once again unless a right to abortion is found or created in the Michigan Constitution. In lieu of such a ruling, Proposal 3 is proposed as an amendment to the Michigan Constitution to establish an explicit right to “reproductive freedom,” including all matters related to pregnancy.
If Proposal 3 is Adopted, the fundamental right to reproductive health care for matters related to pregnancy, including access to abortion prior to the stage of viability, would be guaranteed to all individuals by the Michigan Constitution. Once established, this right would be protected from most legislative efforts to modify it.
If Proposal 3 is Rejected, regulatory decisions regarding reproductive health, including abortion, will revert to the state courts and legislature. Michigan courts are currently addressing whether Michigan’s statute prohibiting abortion violates the state constitution.
Major Issues to Consider: Proposal 3 would not only preserve the right to abortion that had been federally protected by the U.S. Constitution since 1973 – it could potentially expand access to abortion to later stages of pregnancy, lift certain restrictions that have previously been in place, and establish additional rights to a wider range of reproductive health services. While abortion legalization has been shown to have positive effects on women and society at large, the impact of this expansive of a constitutional right is unknown. The proposal’s language is broad and largely undefined, making it vulnerable to a host of legal challenges. If the proposal fails, the Michigan Supreme Court may still find a constitutional right to abortion, but that right is likely to be narrower than what the proposal offers. Without any constitutional protections, Michigan regulations on abortion would be left to the legislative process. Current Michigan abortion laws are among the strictest in the country, but its enforcement by local county prosecutors could vary widely across the state. The existing Michigan statute on abortion, which is among the strictest in the country, is currently being challenged.