Voters Could Protect Abortion Rights In Michigan | Crooked Media
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May 09, 2022
What A Day
Voters Could Protect Abortion Rights In Michigan

In This Episode

  • Michigan has a 1931 law on the books that criminalizes abortion. That law has not been enforced since 1973 when Roe v Wade was decided, but it hasn’t been repealed either. And so it would take effect again should Roe be overturned because the state’s GOP-controlled legislature said they don’t plan to revoke it. We talk with Kelly Hall of The Fairness Project, which is gathering signatures to put a referendum on the ballot this fall to bypass the legislature and take the matter directly to voters. If they approve it, the measure would amend the state’s constitution to make reproductive freedom a right.
  • And in headlines: Vladimir Putin doesn’t declare victory on Russia’s Victory Day, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is projected to be the next president of the Philippines, and President Biden announced a plan to subsidize broadband Internet for low-income homes.


Show Notes:



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Gideon Resnick: It’s Tuesday, May 10th. I’m Gideon Resnick.


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice. And this is What A Day, encouraging people who won a Pulitzer Prize yesterday to reward themselves with a day off from being geniuses.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, just write some of the worst stuff you can ever do today, just as, like, an exercise. You know, you love challenges. This will be a challenge to yourself.


Josie Duffy Rice: Just have a day of failure as a gift? On today’s show. Russian President Vladimir Putin did not declare victory over Ukraine in the country’s victory day holiday yesterday. Plus, the son of the Philippines former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, is poised to be the country’s next ruler.


Gideon Resnick: But first, we want to turn to reproductive rights. So following the leaked SCOTUS draft opinion last week that would overturn Roe v Wade, many states are working on what their abortion laws could look like in the future.


Josie Duffy Rice: However, in Michigan, they’re looking backwards. There is a 1931 law already on the books there that defines abortion as a felony. It also makes performing an abortion in many circumstances, including in cases of rape and incest, illegal and forbids the use of drugs to induce an abortion. Thankfully, that law has not been enforced since 1973, when Roe was decided. But it hasn’t been repealed either. And so it would take effect again, should Roe be overturned.


Gideon Resnick: And last month before the Supreme Court leak, Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, along with Planned Parenthood in Michigan, had filed lawsuits to try to block the enforcement of this law in case Roe was overturned. And the state’s Attorney General, Dana Nessel, said yesterday that she would not enforce this law if it was in effect. Again, it could all be very easy if the legislature wanted to handle it, but Republicans control the state’s legislature. They could completely repeal the ban, but the state’s GOP leaders have reportedly said that they are inclined to keep it.


Josie Duffy Rice: So to get ahead of this law going into effect, activists and groups are trying to get a proposal called Reproductive Freedom for All on the ballot in November. If passed, it would amend the state’s constitution to make reproductive freedom a right. The Fairness Project, along with the ACLU of Michigan, Michigan Voices, and Planned Parenthood advocates of Michigan are leading this campaign, and they are now collecting signatures to get this directly to voters and bypass the legislature. We have with us today Kelly Hall, the Executive Director of the Fairness Project, who is working with organizers on this initiative. Kelly, welcome to What A Day.


Kelly Hall: Thanks so much for having me.


Josie Duffy Rice: So tell us, what would this ballot measure actually do, and how would it protect abortion access if the state law doesn’t get overturned?


Kelly Hall: So the ballot measure in Michigan would enact a constitutional amendment in the state that would protect reproductive freedom, including abortion in the state. So it wouldn’t be up to any one legislature, whether it’s controlled by Democrats or Republicans, to decide in any year whether abortion is legal or not. It would be a constitutionally protected right, and it would have the effect of superseding, of overruling, the existing law on the books that criminalizes abortion.


Gideon Resnick: And in the span of time between now and this conceivably being on the ballot, Michigan AG Dana Nessel said that she would not enforce the 1931 law that is on the books should Roe be overturned. What did you make of that? And then how on this timeline that we’re looking at, does that impact everything in the state overall?


Kelly Hall: I would say thank goodness for good people and good places, which is it is very important in the immediate aftermath of a Supreme Court decision to make sure that people in need of abortions in Michigan can still get that care. Should Michigan find itself with an AG of a different opinion in a different moment, that fundamental human right could evaporate with the changing of one elected official. And that is too tenuous a place for us to leave reproductive rights in the state of Michigan. So that is a very important but not sufficient solution to the problem in Michigan, which is why having a constitutionally-protected right at the state level, even if it’s overturned at the federal level, is so important for people in Michigan.


Josie Duffy Rice: So why put this as a vote to the people? What are the surveys? What are the polls? What does your understanding say about the people support for an idea like this?


Kelly Hall: Sure. Well, Michigan is similar to the rest of the country, which is that there is overwhelming support for upholding Roe v Wade and for abortion decisions to be made between the people who are seeking them and their health care providers. A recent poll that’s publicly available in Michigan showed that 67% of Michigan voters don’t want to see Roe v Wade overturned at the Supreme Court level, compared to only 19% of Michigan voters who do. The fact that there is that sort of overwhelming support in a state and still like the flipping of a switch if five justices at the Supreme Court rule in a particular way, abortion will be criminalized in Michigan. So that is the enormous disconnect that can only really be resolved in this moment by an act of the people, because we don’t see the mood of the Republican-controlled legislature in Michigan changing despite those public opinion polls. This is one of those moments where the preferences of voters and the actions of legislators are deeply out of sync with each other, and those are the moments when we need to use the direct democracy tool that we have. It’s why Michigan has this mechanism for citizens to bring forward constitutional amendments on the issues that are of the most Vital importance.


Gideon Resnick: And we already saw that there are some Republican lawmakers who control the state’s legislature basically celebrating that leaked Supreme Court draft that we saw. How, if at all, are they trying to stop this from happening? Is there any mechanism by which they could?


Kelly Hall: They can’t stop the ballot measure from advancing to voters. They can run a campaign against it just like we will be running a proactive communications campaign, we’ll be communicating with voters about why this is so important. We anticipate that people who don’t share this world view about reproductive freedom as a human right will oppose it. But based on the numbers that I just shared, we think they’re on the losing end of that argument.


Josie Duffy Rice: So can you tell us the timeline that you’re thinking about here? When would this be on the ballot and when is the earliest that it could go into effect?


Kelly Hall: There’s a few steps to this process. So right now, supporters of this constitutional amendment in Michigan are collecting signatures to qualify it for the ballot. They need to collect over 425,000 valid signatures before July 11th. And after they turn in those signatures, the state will count them up, validate them for the November election this fall. That is when voters will get to decide whether this is an amendment they want in their constitution or not, and it would go into effect the following year.


Josie Duffy Rice: So how can Michigan basically be an example to other states? How can activists in other states use this as a model to get abortion rights ensured wherever they are?


Kelly Hall: There are 23 states around the country, including Washington, D.C., that have citizen-initiated ballot measure processes. So in all 23 of those places, folks can take up clipboards and enact legislation or enact constitutional amendments themselves. They don’t have to wait for elected officials. And there are a small number of those places, like California and Oregon, where abortion rights have already been statutorily protected. But this is going to be a really powerful tool as advocates start thinking about what the path forward is in Ohio, in Arkansas, in Nebraska, in Montana. These are all places where the ballot measure process may be the only tool in the toolbox since elected officials are unlikely to act. And we and other partners are available to help support local advocates and going, What does it take to do this right?


Gideon Resnick: This has been a stretch of justifiable despair for people, but what has been your message through all of that?


Kelly Hall: The thing that is really important to me is that we find ways to channel our rage and frustration and despair into something productive, and this ballot measure is one of those opportunities to do that, and I think is also serving as a really important reminder that even though influencing the Supreme Court may seem out of reach, even though Congress is likely to try and fail to act this week, that we are not out of options, that just because the eggs that were in our federal advocacy basket may not hatch, there are a lot of other avenues for protecting reproductive freedom and abortion rights in other ways. And this ballot measure is one example of that, but it can be the start of many additional ballot measures, and there are plenty of options left and a lot of work still to be done, and I hope we can channel that despair into action.


Gideon Resnick: Well, Kelly, thank you so much again for joining us. We really appreciate it.


Kelly Hall: Thanks so much for having me.


Gideon Resnick: That was our conversation with Kelly Hall from the Fairness Project. We’re going to have links in our show notes so you can learn more about the ballot measure, and if you are in Michigan, how you can volunteer to get signatures. We’re going to keep following all this, of course, but that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: It was Victory Day in Russia yesterday and President Vladimir Putin did not declare victory in Ukraine. It was expected that he would use Russia’s national holiday to say its forces triumphed in some way during the invasion of Ukraine or to at least promise to escalate the violence, but speaking before a military parade in Moscow on Monday, he mostly emphasized Russia’s rationale for invading Ukraine: to fight against Nazis–although, as we mentioned on yesterday’s show, that is a lie. There is no evidence that Nazis lead Ukraine. Before Putin spoke, Ukraine’s President Vladimir Zelenskyy released a video of himself walking through his country’s capital of Kiev and accused Putin of being the one to carry on Hitler’s legacy, and that Ukrainians will fight Russia as they fought against the Nazis in World War II. He added, quote, “We won then. We will win now. Very soon there will be two Victory Days in Ukraine.”


Josie Duffy Rice: Ferdinand Marcos Jr. appeared to have won the presidential election in the Philippines yesterday. Official counting is reportedly set to begin today, but preliminary results from 95% of precincts showed Marcos Jr. Leading his closest competition by more than double. Marcos’s father led the Philippines as a dictator from 1965 to 1986, but was ousted in what has been called the People Power Uprising. During the two-decade rule of Marcos Senior, the Marcos family took between 5 and $10 billion from the Treasury and put it in their own pockets. Observers think that Marcos Jr. will try to shield his family from further prosecution and investigation. They also expect him to protect the country’s outgoing populist president, Rodrigo Duterte, from possible prosecution by the International Criminal Court. A drug war Duterte declared, led to the extrajudicial killings of thousands. The vice president of Marcos Jr. Is Sara Duterte, Rodrigo’s daughter, and The New York Times reported that their overlapping fan bases might have helped seal the deal for both candidates. Reacting to the election’s result, one political science in the Philippines told The Times, quote, “This is a dashing of the hopes that there will be a U-turn away from the backsliding toward authoritarian rule that was begun by President Duterte.”


Gideon Resnick: “A Dashing of the Hopes” is my memoir title about this particular era in time.


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s not the best.


Gideon Resnick: President Joe Biden wants to share the joy that he’s gotten out of streaming World War II documentaries and big band music with a larger number of Americans. Yesterday, his administration announced its plan to provide 48 million households with subsidized broadband Internet, which will cost no more than $30 a month. The program is part of the $1 trillion infrastructure package Congress passed last year. It hinges on agreements with 20 Internet providers like AT&T and Verizon, who have agreed to offer their services to low-income families at a discount. Biden has spoken in the past about the necessity of having high speed Internet, which is a portal to work, education, health care, and of course, a big hole to dump our time in. Last year, about seven in ten adults in rural areas reported having home broadband access, so there are still large gaps, and the cost of service is thought to be the biggest obstacle. There are some concerns among experts that Biden’s plan doesn’t have enough funding. Some estimate that money for subsidies will run out by 2025, beyond which point families may be stuck with a new pricey bill every month. If you want to see if you qualify for subsidized broadband, AKA Biden Band, you can call 8773842575 or paradoxically log-on to getinternet dot gov.


Josie Duffy Rice: Hard to go to the website when you don’t have internet.


Gideon Resnick: Tough.


Josie Duffy Rice: A scrappy, beat down, nearly-dead underdog called Personal Privacy scored a win yesterday. The facial recognition company Clearview AI agreed to settle a case in Illinois that accused it of collecting people’s photos without their consent, and will discontinue some of its most controversial practices. Clearview had built up a huge database of more than 20 billion facial photos, which works out to about three for every person on earth–presumably two serious and one silly. The photos were scraped from places like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram–which is something you can just do if you’re a software company that wants to disrupt being a creep. Clearview used to package its database with its facial recognition algorithm and sell it to private businesses, police departments, and more. More than 600 law enforcement agencies bought it, and privacy advocates grew concerned about how the technology could fall into the hands of stalkers, ex-partners, and predatory companies–


Gideon Resnick: But enough about the law enforcement agencies. Ha-hoo.


Josie Duffy Rice: Oh, I like it–who could use Clearview so-called face spreads to identify and track almost anyone. in settling yesterday, Clearview agreed to stop selling its database except to federal and state agencies. Clearview would still be allowed to sell its algorithm to private companies. The lawsuit that led to this settlement was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union two years ago, and it’s far from the only legal action that has been taken against Clearview. The company is facing a $22.6 million fine in England, a €20 million fine in Italy, and has been banned in Canada, Australia, and parts of Europe.


Gideon Resnick: You know, if this exists and there’s three of every human, at the very least, we should be allowed to select which ones, you know? Like how silly am I in the one picture, and how serious am I in the other two, and what ages and what lighting is it, you know? Like, if you’re going to take this, let me have my choice.


Josie Duffy Rice: That’s true. I choose the one that looks the least like me.


Gideon Resnick: Exactly right.


Josie Duffy Rice: That’s my angle here.


Gideon Resnick: I will be selecting stock images that do not resemble me whatsoever and tagging myself.


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s me, I swear.


Gideon Resnick: To prevent this from happening. That’s my long game. If you think that any of my social media profiles are weird and don’t contain pictures of me, it’s for this explicit reason.


Josie Duffy Rice: I understand. I understand.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go: this week on Pod Save the World, Ben talks to us Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo about the newest round of U.S. sanctions against Russia. Plus, Ben and Tommy discuss Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s projected landslide victory in the Philippines presidential election, and what those results could mean for democracy worldwide. New episodes of Pod Save the World drop every Wednesday. You can listen wherever you get your podcasts. That is all for today. If you’d like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, delete us from Clearview’s hard drive, and tell your friends to listen.


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading, and not just Joe Biden’s glowing reviews of World War II documentaries on Letter Box like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Josie Duffy Rice.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And enjoy your day off, Pulitzer winners!


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. You have worked your entire life to have a single day out and now it’s here. And that’s it.


Josie Duffy Rice: That’s all you get. You’re welcome.


Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzy Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.