Bernstein, Gilchrist talk abortion, housing, child care
ALPENA — Abortion, housing, and child care were the topics of the day on Sunday in Alpena as Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein made brief stops in Alpena while enroute to the annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk.
Gilchrist held an event at the Thunder Bay Winery and aimed to fire up local Democratic voters, while Bernstein held a meet-and-greet later in the day at Culligan Plaza, where he answered questions about his job and current and future litigation.
Most of the people at both events wanted to know more about the future of abortions in Michigan, which has been a hot-button topic since the U.S. Supreme Court this summer ruled against Roe v. Wade, the case that guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion, and sent the abortion rulemaking process to the states.
Gilchrist explained the importance of a ballot initiative called the Michigan Right to Reproductive Freedom Initiative, which would update the state’s abortion laws in the Michigan Constitution. He said more than 700,000 signatures on the petition to get the proposal on the ballot proves people in the state want action taken on the issue.
“The first thing people will benefit from is there would be legal clarity on the availability of rights to abortion care and services in Michigan,” Gilchrist said. “After the Dobbs decision (the U.S. Supreme Court case that struck down Roe v. Wade), Michigan would have fell back to this draconian 1931 law that would criminalize the active performing of abortions and it would put us in a position where Republicans in the Legislature would introduce legislation that would put doctors and nurses in jail for doing so. The governor and my position is that people should have the right to define their families as they see fit and we think the ballot initiative is in line with that spirit.”
Alpena County Republican Party President Kevin Osbourne said he hasn’t read the entire proposal yet, but from what he does know, the initiative goes too far.
“I have been hearing that it is too big, broad, and excessive,” Osbourne said.
The fate of the ballot proposal currently lies with Bernstein and his cohorts on the Michigan Supreme Court. The judges will decide whether or not to allow the initiative on the November ballot and could decide as soon as Wednesday.
Backers of the proposal appealed to the Supreme Court after the Michigan Board of State Canvassers tied in a vote on the matter in late August, a deadlock that rejected the proposal.
The deadline for ballot proposals to be filed and placed on the ballot is Friday.
Bernstein, endorsed by the state Democratic Party and seeking his second 8-year term on the bench, didn’t tip his hand when asked about his position on the ballot initiative and didn’t speculate on how the court could rule on the matter.
He did explain the process and gave a brief history on abortion laws in Michigan. Bernstein stressed that the decision would be based on fact and law and justices’ personal beliefs would not be a factor.
“The absolute most important thing is that you have to be independent and follow the law and follow the Constitution,” Bernstein said. “You have to approach things on an independent basis. You have to make sure you can uphold the Bill of Rights, the state and U.S. constitution(s).”
Gilchrist urged residents to vote for Democrats in November. He said doing so would help the Gretchen Whitmer administration earn a second term and flip the majority in the state House and Senate, which both are currently controlled by Republicans.
Gilchrist touted the Whitmer administration’s investment in education, roads, infrastructure, and small businesses as accomplishments, but also said the state needs more work and further investment.
He said the administration has plans in place to address the ongoing housing shortage and to increase available child care options for parents, both major issues in Alpena and other rural areas of the state.
“I launched a plan called Caring for MI Future that will open 1,000 new child care facilities across the state in the next two years to meet this demand,” the lieutenant governor said. “It provides incentives for more people to attend a place like Alpena Community College to get the professional training, certification, and degrees to staff these new child care facilities. This is about positioning communities to be amazing places to live and raise families.”
Housing remains another large issue. Gilchrist said $100 million in government investment would be coupled with private investment to revitalize living quarters.
“We recognize there is new housing that can and must be built and also housing that needs to be brought into a condition to be lived in affordably,” Glichrist said. “This investment will help to open the door for both of those opportunities.”
Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.