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Anti-choice groups close to gathering signatures for controversial ballot proposals

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Groups with ballot measures to restrict abortions in Michigan could be gathering signatures soon. A state board approved the 100-word summaries and forms of their petitions on Wednesday. Now the groups just need to get a final stamp of approval before they can start asking Michigan voters for their support.

One measure would ban an abortion procedure called dilation and evacuation; it’s a procedure typically used for second trimester abortions.

Genevieve Marnon is with Right to Life of Michigan, the group behind that measure. Marnon was asked if the group was concerned about the law that controls how to collect signatures for ballot measures. The recently enacted law is currently facing legal challenges.

“We are moving forward simply because we can’t just wait, we’re going to keep moving forward,” Marnon said. “And if the game changes mid-stream we’ll change along with the game.”

The other measure would ban abortions once cardiac activity is detected. Amanda West of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan spoke out against both measures. She said the petitions do not make it clear what a voter is signing on for.

“We have deep concerns that folks aren’t really understanding that we’re criminalizing physicians for providing the best care for women and we want to make sure that people have a true understanding of that’s really what’s at stake here,” West said.

But advocates for both groups insist that their summary and ballot language is clear with the intent of each individual measure.

However, there were some changes made to the measure to ban abortions after cardiac activity, which is being put forward by the Michigan Heartbeat Coalition. Before approving the measure, the board removed the term “fetal heartbeat” from the summary and replaced it with “cardiac activity.” The board did so because the petition’s own definition is not consistent with what is generally thought of to be a heartbeat, because it could occur as early as six weeks of gestation.

The board made up of two Republicans and two Democrats initially butted heads on the petitions, but Democrat Jeannette Bradshaw supported approval of both initiatives after the changes were made in the cardiac activity petition.

“One of the things that we have to remember is to protect the citizen’s right to petition,” Bradshaw said. “Regardless of our personal decisions or our personal thoughts.”

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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