Abortion in Michigan: Deadline for high court decisions on ballot issues is Thursday

The Michigan Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether two petitions dealing with voting rights and abortion should appear on the November ballot Thursday. 

The state supreme court justices were given a tight deadline to rule on the two pending ballot proposals after the Board of State Canvassers deadlocked on both of them. The 2-2 tie led to a rejection of both petitions despite them receiving the Michigan Bureau of Election's blessing and securing enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. 

Groups appealed the decision, arguing the proposals should go on the ballot.

This coming after a Circuit Court Judge struck down Michigan's 1931-era abortion ban on Wednesday, arguing enforcing the rule was unconstitutional. Currently no law governing the practice is on the books in Michigan - making the high court's decision even more significant.

"If the court does nothing, this proposal doesn't appear on the ballot," said Attorney General Dana Nessel during a virtual press conference Wednesday morning.

Debate around the state's most pressing issues expected to drive turnout to the polls in November was flipped on its head in June when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade, which lifted federal protections on the practice. 

Go Deeper: Did missing spaces in Michigan abortion proposal derail effort to put issue on ballot?

Since then, the status of getting an abortion in Michigan has gone through a series of whip lashing court decisions.

However, the flip-flopping can't last forever. The high court needs to decide today since ballot language is required by law to be confirmed by Sept. 9 so absentee ballots can be mailed out and in voters' hands by Sept. 29.

Michigan Right to Reproductive Freedom

Under the legal abortion bills' language, the right to an abortion would become a constitutionally-protected practice.

"Reproductive freedom" as its phrased is defined as "the right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy, including but not limited to prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care."

When the petition was submitted, it cleared the signature requirement by more than 150,000. 

But when it came to the Board of State Canvassers, both Republicans on the board rejected the petition over concerns that a section of the language as it appeared when signatures were being gathered was confusing. Particularly, the canvassers cited what appeared to be missing spaces in one line of language.

Debate soon followed over the precise duty of the board since their decision was based on only confirming if enough signatures were gathered and if the form of the ballot petition was appropriate. Nothing about the content of the petition is to be considered.

Michigan Right to Vote initiative

The other petition the high court will rule on would widen the breadth of voting rights in the state's Declaration of Rights. 

Among the rights that would be installed include laws governing when absentee ballots can be dropped off, if unsolicited ballot applications can be received unsolicited, and guaranteeing the right to vote with a photo ID, signed affidavit, or matching voter registration signatures.

The state would also be required to make more absentee ballot drop boxes available. 

During consideration of this petition, Republicans rejected the initiative again over the proposal language, arguing it failed to explain how the state constitution would be impacted if it passed. Notably, the board approved the proposal and its language earlier in the year.