Michigan Republicans Dig in on Abortion, Sue to Overturn Will of Voters

Two Michigan anti-choice activist groups are working with Republican lawmakers to sue the state and block the implementation of a voter-approved constitutional amendment protecting access to abortion rights. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday and first reported by The Detroit News, speaks to the lengths the GOP is going to undermine the will of voters who remain furious over the Supreme Court’s 2022 reversal of Roe v. Wade. 

Michigan’s 2022 referendum enshrining abortion rights and reproductive freedom into the state’s constitution is one of seven state ballot initiatives across the nation that have been approved by voters since Roe was overturned. On Tuesday, voters in Ohio approved a similar initiative, and several more such proposals are expected to be on the ballot in key swing states in 2024. It’s clear that voter backlash to the end of federal abortion rights is driving Democratic turnout in elections, and in the face of repeated losses, the GOP is now testing strategies to undermine pro-choice legislation and prevent another disappointing electoral performance in 2024. 

In the Michigan lawsuit, two anti-choice organizations, Michigan Right to Life and The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, partnered with three Republican state legislators to sue Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D), Attorney General Dana Nessel (D), and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D). 

The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction on the implementation of the amendment and argues that the wording of the text creates a “super-right” to reproductive freedom. “At no time in our nation’s history has such a super-right, immune from all legislative action, ever been created by a popular vote outside of the checks and balances of a republican form of government,” the suit reads.

Stacey LaRouche, press secretary to Governor Whitmer, told The Detroit News that “it shouldn’t be lost on people that these right-wing organizations and radical Republicans in the Michigan Legislature are cherry-picking courts to try to once again overturn a constitutionally guaranteed right because they can’t win with voters,” 

ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Loren Khogali told the publication that the lawsuit is a blatant attempt to “undermine the will of the voters.” 

Despite having celebrated the destruction of Roe, in the aftermath of Tuesday’s lackluster midterm performance Republicans are once again feuding with each other over how to approach abortion rights going into 2024, and what messaging changes need to be made. 

According to sources who spoke to NBC News, the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Wednesday began encouraging lawmakers to “clearly state their opposition to a national abortion ban and their support for reasonable limits on late-term abortions when babies can feel pain with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.”

In September, NBC News reported that strategists and lawmakers within the GOP were discussing a full rebrand of the terminology and glossary used by Republicans to discuss abortion issues. One key phrase put up for rechristening is the term “pro-life” which some strategists feel has become linked to draconian anti-abortion restrictions that face widespread opposition. 


The issue was also front and center in Wednesday night’s GOP 2024 primary debate. “All this stuff that’s happened to the pro-life cause, they have been caught flat-footed on these referenda. And they have been losing,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who recently signed a six-week abortion ban into law in his state, lamented. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley urged the party to come to a “consensus.” 

“When we’re looking at this, there are some states that are going more on the pro-life side. I welcome that,” Haley said. “There are some states that are going more on the pro-choice side — I wish that wasn’t the case, but the people decided. Haley added that when it comes to federal law lawmakers need to “be honest … we haven’t had 60 Senate in over 100 years, we might have 45 pro-life senators, so no Republican president can ban abortions any more than a Democrat president can ban these state laws, so let’s find consensus.”