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Michigan Supreme Court orders abortion question on ballot

Michigan's highest court has said a referendum on women's reproductive rights must be put before voters.

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state's Board of Canvassers must proceed with certifying the abortion question ahead of the November election. Challengers to the referendum had wanted the court to throw it out, saying it was confusing and full of typographical errors.

Chief Justice Bridget McCormick disagreed.

"The challengers have not produced a single signer who claims to have been confused by the limited-spacing sections in the full-text portion of the proposal," wrote McCormick, as reported by the Detroit Free Press. "Yet two members of the Board of State Canvassers would prevent the people of Michigan from voting on the proposal because they believe that the decreased spacing makes the text no longer '[t]he full text.'"

The court ruled 5-2 that the Board of Canvassers must certify the question, which collected over 750,000 signatures in a petition drive earlier this year.

Justice Brian Zahra was one of the two Republican judges who voted against putting the question on the ballot.

"As a wordsmith and a member of Michigan’s court of last resort, a court that routinely scrutinizes in great detail the words used in statutes and constitutional provisions, I find it an unremarkable proposition that spaces between words matter," wrote Zahra, according to The Free Press. "Words separated by spaces cease being words or become new words when the spaces between them are removed."

The ruling comes a day after a Michigan Court of Claims judge issued a permanent injunction against the state's 1931 abortion law, which made the procedure illegal except in cases of saving the mother's life. That law was superseded by Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that guaranteed women a constitutional right to an abortion. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ruling this spring, throwing the legality of abortion back to the states.

The court had until Friday to make a decision, as that is the deadline for county clerks to finalize what will appear on the November 8 ballot. Voters will now be asked to decide if abortion should remain legal in the Wolverine State.

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