MI ballot initiative sparks new abortion debate at GV


GVL / Meghan Tripp (Landgren)

Grace Smith, Staff Writer

This summer the Grand Valley State University community watched the abortion access saga unfold in Michigan.

From the initial ruling of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to the brief hours of Aug. 19 when county prosecutors in Michigan were able to pursue abortion cases before an injunction was issued, the state’s legal position on the issue has remained unstable.

Although abortion access is protected in Michigan for the foreseeable future, activist groups on the GVSU campus are now preparing for the next phase in the fight over the statewide legality of the procedure: the Michigan Right to Reproductive Freedom Initiative.

Through social media campaigns and tabling events in the university’s Kirkhof Center, GVSU’s Students for Choice club has promoted pre-election ballot signing with the goal of getting the initiative on the ballot in the upcoming November midterm elections. If the initiative was to pass, reproductive rights would be codified in Michigan’s state constitution.

At GVSU’s Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity, Violence Prevention and Education Coordinator and Faculty of Director of Students for Choice, Leah Short, detailed what she sees as the necessity of her club’s efforts to get the measure on the ballot.

“I see a lot of demonstrations with coat hangers and blood, which perpetuates the idea that abortion is unsafe, when we know it’s not,” Short said. “Leaving people without access is unsafe.”

After Students for Choice and other activists submitted over 750,000 signatures from across the state, far surpassing the 425,000 needed to be added to the ballot, the measure is now poised to cause a fresh wave of debate on the issue as it comes closer to appearing on the ballot.

Following a recommendation from the Michigan Bureau of Elections that concluded 596,000 valid signatures to have been submitted, the Board of State Canvassers has until September 9 to certify the measure and allow it to appear on the ballot.

Protect Life at GVSU has sought to steer the campus community away from supporting the measure. In a statement, Protect Life at GVSU President Sarah McNamara said that the initiative would have dangerous consequences should it pass.

“In Michigan, there will be a referendum on the ballot this November that, if passed, will amend the state constitution by creating a right to abortion and basically deregulating it completely,” McNamara said. “This amendment is poorly written and is painted as ‘protecting reproductive rights’ which is incredibly misleading. It would even get rid of things like informed consent for women, parental consent for minors [and] health and safety regulations for abortion facilities.”

To promote their political opinions this fall, McNamara said that Protect Live at GVSU will be focusing on educating the community about the consequences of the constitutional amendment. She plans to continue to have progressive and educational conversations about abortion access and working to connect women with resources and local pregnancy support centers such as Positive Options.

McNamara also said that they invite everyone to come and share their opinions.

The debate surrounding abortion has led to dialogue on GVSU’s campus in the past, with demonstrations at the Cook-Carillon Tower and the cancellation of the debate between GVSU’s Students for Choice and Protect Life at GVSU.

The university has not released an official statement on the matter.