Activists and political leaders rally for reproductive freedom for all ahead of November elections

On Monday night, the University of Michigan Diag was filled with more than 100 voices chanting “Yes out of three!” as activists and members of the Ann Arbor community rallied for Proposition 3, also known as the Reproductive Freedom for All Vote Initiative, which will run in the upcoming mid-term elections. mandate.

The Reproductive Freedom For All proposal would amend the Michigan Constitution to enshrine the right to abortion, birth control, and other forms of reproductive health care. Following the annulment of Roe v. Wade in June, abortion access remains legal in Michigan for now under a preliminary injunction blocking a 1931 abortion ban. There is no permanent legal protection for abortion in the state.

The event kicked off with speeches from representatives of Promote the Vote — another ballot proposal in November, aimed at increasing voter accessibility — and the Reproductive Freedom For All initiative. Representatives spoke about the urgency of voting in this year’s election to support these ballot proposals and other Democratic politicians.

Shanay Watson-Whittaker, deputy campaign manager for Reproductive Freedom For All, shared her personal experience of having an abortion for an unplanned pregnancy. She said she was living in a shelter with her siblings at the time and was unable to support a child financially.

“I had to make the decision to terminate my pregnancy because I couldn’t imagine raising a child in that environment,” Watson-Whittaker said. “I couldn’t imagine putting myself through that kind of trauma and having my family, my siblings go through that trauma of raising a child in that environment. So I made this decision. I don’t regret this decision at all because I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t make this decision.

Watson-Whittaker urged attendees to vote “yes” on reproductive freedom for all, which will appear as Proposition 3 on the ballot, and to encourage others in their lives to do the same.

“Tell your friends and neighbors and family members why you support Proposition 3,” Watson-Whittaker said. “Normalize the conversation around reproductive care. Normalize it. Tell your friends, neighbors and family like it’s just a sunny day here in Michigan.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel was also in attendance Monday night, as she recounted reading “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. in an English course as a UM student. Nessel said the novel, which depicts a dystopian world where women are categorized as “servants” and forced to bear children of high government officials, reflects the current state of reproductive rights in Michigan.

“It’s not really fiction anymore, is it?” Nessel said. “It’s actually closer to reality because now we have a government that can regulate and politicize women’s bodies in a way that frankly doesn’t regulate or politicize men’s bodies.”

The event was hosted by the University Chapter of College Democrats. LSA senior Vivi Iyer, co-chair of the College Democrats, told the Michigan Daily that there are still uncertainties about abortion access in Michigan, but she is motivated by the support of participants and other activists fighting for reproductive freedom for all.

“It’s encouraging to see so many people supporting people of all ages who can get pregnant,” Iyer said. “I have more confidence that Prop 3 will pass.”

Nessel also spoke at the rally about the importance of being politically engaged, especially for students.

“If you haven’t gotten involved, and you haven’t been engaged, and you don’t vote, you won’t have another chance to get your basic rights back,” Nessel said. “Because once they’re gone, they’re gone and they’re not coming back.”

Nessel will seek re-election in November and will face Republican opponent Matthew DePerno. At a “Save America” ​​rally in Warren, Mich., on Saturday night, DePerno criticized Nessel’s views on abortion as too extreme. Nessel told the Daily that DePerno’s comments misrepresented his position on abortion and reproductive health care in general. She also referenced comments he made about how Griswold v. Connecticut – the Supreme Court case protecting the right to birth control – should be overturned and returned to the states.

“I’m all for enshrining the right that we’ve had for 50 years, in this state and in this country, in our state constitution,” Nessel said. “Banning birth control is radical. Keeping birth control legal and available to everyone – it’s not a new idea, it’s something that’s been the law of this state and this country for longer than any student at this school has been. urge.

Washtenaw County District Attorney Eli Savit, a law school lecturer, also spoke at the rally. Savit recalled the difficulty of certifying Proposition 3 for the ballot due to attempts by some unelected members of the Michigan Board of State Solicitors to refuse the proposition due to missing spaces in the language of the petition.

“A few unelected men on the Board of State Solicitors tried to keep Prop 3 off the ballot because they subjectively didn’t like the space between the words on the petition,” Savit said. “Only because the Michigan Supreme Court ordered them to do their job and certify it for the ballot will we have the opportunity to vote on this.”

Savit has already said that he would not prosecute anyone for receiving or performing an abortion, but told the Michigan Daily that promise was not enough to protect abortion access.

“It’s one thing to say I’m not going to sue him, but we need this law blocked statewide so that no one can sue him and so that reproductive options remain open to everyone. “said Savit. “We must once and for all take these issues out of the hands of prosecutors, judges and politicians.”

U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., spoke to attendees about the changes in women’s rights and reproductive rights she has witnessed in her lifetime.

“We’ve worked a lifetime to advance all women’s issues,” Dingell said. “And suddenly six people decided they were going to tell a woman what she could do with her body. It’s wrong.”

In an interview with The Daily, Dingell urged young voters to engage in the upcoming election.

“Young people need to know that we need them to engage, that we need them to be involved in the democratic process,” Dingell said. “I know a lot of young people are outraged, but outrage has to turn and elections matter.”

Nessel said passing the Reproductive Freedom For All amendment would help resolve the uncertainty surrounding abortion access. Nessel highlighted past and current challenges to efforts to protect abortion in Michigan and stressed the urgency of passing Proposition 3 in November.

“We have preliminary injunctions in place, but they are under appeal,” Nessel said. “At any time now, we could ask the Court of Appeals to rule that these injunctions should be lifted, and we are going to have prosecutors around this state who could – right now – start prosecuting abortion cases. . And so Proposition 3 is more important than ever, because if – and I hope is when – Proposition 3 passes, then these cases will be brought up because these rights will be enshrined in our constitution.

Daily staff reporter Samantha Rich can be reached at [email protected].

Astrid Code contributed to the reporting.

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