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Kalamazoo abortion rights rally in Bronson Park Sunday

A petition to amend Michigan's constitution and keep abortion legal will be available for people to sign at the May 1 rally.

Abortion rights activists warn that if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, a 1931 Michigan law could go back into effect, making abortion illegal and threatening doctors who provide abortion services with up to 15-years in prison. It’s the reason why local activists are organizing a rally on Sunday, May 1 in Bronson Park.

Rally organizer, Michelle Zukowski-Serlin, said if the U.S. Supreme Court decides in favor a Mississippi law barring most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy, women in Michigan will lose their right to bodily autonomy.

“This rally is of extreme importance for anybody that has a uterus and parents of people that have a uterus. And the reason it's so important is because if the United States Supreme Court overturns Roe versus Wade before June 11, when they have to make a decision on the Mississippi law, then abortion will be illegal in Michigan. We’ll revert back to a 1931 law, which makes it a felony for doctors to commit any abortion,” said Zukowski-Serlin, “unless the petition gets on the ballot and people vote to amend the state constitution.”

That petition will be available for people to sign at the rally, according to Zukowski-Serlin. Supporters of the Reproductive Freedom for All Coalition hope to gather more than 425-thousand signatures from around the state by July 11 to get it on the 2022 ballot. The coalition is made up of the ACLU of Michigan, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, and Michigan Voices. 

The initiative to amend the state constitution to keep abortion legal would overturn the 91-year-old law, which dates back to 1846 and was revised in 1931. The amendment would prohibit criminal punishment for an abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth and invalidate other laws that restrict abortion access.

Shardae Chambers is a community organizer involved with the petition drive in Kalamazoo. She said citizens who sign the petition this weekend will make it possible for voters to resolve the issue once and for all in Michigan this fall.

“All those who sign this petition, they're not making a choice right then and there,” Chambers said. “They're allowing that petition, they're allowing this language to actually be on the ballot; letting voters actually be able to decide it, to make the final decision in November.”

Michigan State Representative Christine Morse (D-61st District), former State Representative Jon Hoadley (D-60th District), and State Representative Julie Rogers (D-60th District) are among the speakers at Sunday’s rally.  Singer-songwriter Lisa Mackie Moaiery will be the musical guest.  The rally runs noon until 2 p.m. in Bronson Park on Sunday, May 1.

Leona Larson (Gould-McElhone) was a complaint investigator with the Detroit Consumer Affairs Department when she started producing and co-hosting Consumer Conversation with Esther Shapiro for WXYT-Radio in Detroit while freelancing at The Detroit News and other local newspapers. Leona joined WDIV-TV in Detroit as a special project's producer and later, as an investigative producer. Today, she splits her time as a general assignment reporter at WMUK and a part-time journalism instructor for the School of Communications at Western Michigan University. Leona prefers to use her middle name on air because it's shorter and easier to pronounce.