The Reproductive Freedom for All initiative campaign recently submitted 753,759 signatures from every county in Michigan — far exceeding the required 425,059 signatures required — to appear on the November 2022 ballot. Once the signatures are verified by the Board of State Canvassers, a constitutional amendment to protect the right to abortion will be placed on the November 8 ballot.
Back in December of 2021, following oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson, the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union anticipated the overturning of Roe v. Wade and started the ballot initiative process to place this amendment to Michigan’s state constitution on the ballot in the November 2022 election. Dubbed the Reproductive Freedom for All amendment, this would constitutionally protect and guarantee the right to abortion, miscarriage management, contraception, prenatal care and in-vitro fertilization. It would prevent the enforcement of Michigan’s draconian pre-Roe law that would make it a felony to administer an abortion or to sell medication that would induce an abortion with an exception to preserve a woman’s life. The constitutional amendment would also prevent the state legislature, currently controlled in both chambers by Republicans, from infringing on these basic human rights. If passed in November, the RFFA amendment would be the first state constitutional protection of reproductive rights in the United States.
Members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation – Detroit were some of the first organizers to get involved in the petitioning process for this ballot initiative. Organizers with the PSL put together a training session for signature gathering for the RFFA amendment initiative on May 7, just three days after the Supreme Court’s opinion in Dobbs was leaked and showed that the unelected Justices did in fact plan to decimate protections for reproductive rights. Alongside other community organizers, PSL Detroit members began collecting signatures after the training in Detroit’s historic Eastern Market. A hub of local shopping and out-of-city tourism, organizers collected hundreds of signatures on that first day and spoke with even more from all across Michigan and even those from other states and Canada.
PSL organizer Ben captured his experience during the petitioning this way: “Abortion was no longer a dirty word for a lot of pro-choice people I talked to. Saying ‘sign the petition to protect abortion rights’ rather than ‘reproductive rights’ or ‘women’s bodily autonomy’ got a more immediate, direct, and positive response. In the past, people were squeamish about abortion because the Right had dominated the moral argument. People would say, ‘I don’t like it, abortion is wrong, but women should still have the right to choose.’ But once the prospect of abortion becoming illegal became a reality, a lot of people dropped that moralizing stance and were much more open to a stance of free abortion, on demand, without apology.”
Outraged by the Supreme Court’s reactionary opinion that was leaked on May 4, organizers and the people they spoke with were equally energized by the local initiative to enshrine reproductive rights into the Michigan constitution. PSL Detroit organizers continued to conduct outreach and petition-gathering sessions every week up through the deadline of signature submissions on July 2. Organizers collected signatures at Eastern Market, local Pride events, and within Detroit and suburban neighborhoods. Virtually every conversation was met with high enthusiasm as the struggle intensified. People, sometimes for the first time, mobilized at demonstrations outside the Eastern District of Michigan federal courthouse that became more and more frequent up through the massive demonstration following the release of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs on June 24..
With Justice Clarence Thomas declaring in his concurring opinion that the Supreme Court should next target other fundamental human rights like the right to contraception, same-sex marriage and same-sex sexual relations, the fight for fundamental human rights can and must continue. It is clear that the capitalist ruling class and right-wing forces will continue their assault on fundamental human rights. We can and we must continue the fight against these oppressive forces, which will continue to threaten the rights of the working class until capitalism is dismantled and replaced with a socialist system where we, the working class, have political power and can control our own destinies.