The Kentucky amendment was initiated by Republicans in the state legislature, while the Michigan ballot measure was initiated by activists who collected a record number of signatures. (Those signatures are still being certified, but the organizers have said they’re confident they have enough.)
The legal status of abortion under current laws in both states is being contested in the courts. A Kentucky Court of Appeals judge recently allowed two laws banning abortion to go into effect, allowing abortion providers to be prosecuted with a crime and sentenced to up to five years in prison.
On Monday, the Michigan Court of Appeals weakened an injunction against a 1931 abortion ban still on the books in the state, allowing county prosecutors to enforce the ban if they want to. Hours later, another judge again blocked enforcement of the 1931 law. Talk about confusing.
Abortion providers in Michigan are seeing a surge of patients coming in from other states, and the back-and-forth in the courts meant that on Monday, some patients had abortions canceled after they had driven for hours, one doctor told NPR. That’s especially problematic since some patients coming into Michigan are doing so after appointments in their home states were canceled, so they’ve already experienced delays in getting the procedure.
One patient was getting an abortion because her son was diagnosed with cancer. “And she couldn’t continue the pregnancy and care for her son with all his medical needs and had her appointment and another state canceled at the last minute,” Dr. Lisa Harris said. “It took her a couple of weeks to find care with us in Michigan. And ultimately she had her abortion procedure the day before her child was about to have major cancer surgery.”
Delays like that due to the back and forth in the courts are part of why the ballot measure is so important. “This measure will ensure that all Michiganders have the right to safe and respectful care during birthing, everyone has the right to use temporary or permanent birth control, everyone has the right to continue or end a pregnancy pre-viability, and no one can be punished for having a miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion,” the coalition promoting the amendment explains. Reproductive Freedom for All, ACLU of Michigan, Michigan Voices, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan are organizing the effort.