Tuesday, September 27, 2022

UPDATE: Judge rules that county prosecutors cannot enforce Michigan's abortion ban

August 19, 2022
<p>Abortion-rights advocates gather on the Michigan State Capitol lawn on June 24, 2022.</p>

Abortion-rights advocates gather on the Michigan State Capitol lawn on June 24, 2022.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

On Friday, an Oakland County judge ruled that Michigan county prosecutors cannot enforce the state's 1931 abortion ban while courts consider the lawsuit brought forth by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The suit seeks to overturn the ban, ruling it unconstitutional.

Michigan's 1931 abortion ban is one of the strictest in the country. Under this law, both performing or receiving an abortion is punishable by felony and up to four years in prison. It doesn’t make exceptions for those that are impregnated by cases of rape or incest. However, it does grant exceptions in order to “preserve the life” of the pregnant person.

Earlier this month, the Michigan Court of Appeals said that state county prosecutors were not barred from enforcing the ban, despite the preliminary injunction that the Court of Claims granted in May, which suspended enforcement of the ban until a decision is reached in the lawsuit.

This ruling means that abortion will likely stay legal in Michigan until a decision is reached in the suit. The Michigan Supreme Court has six months to determine in abortion is a constitutionally protected right in the state.

Circuit Court Judge Jacob Cunningham noted during the ruling that the injunction is in the public interest because it gives the opportunity for Michigan voters to decide the fate of abortion rights at the ballot box.

The Reproductive Freedom for All, an abortion-rights advocacy group, launched a ballot initiative seeking to add language to the Michigan constitution that protects abortion rights. It gathered over 750k signatures. The amendment is currently awaiting approval by the state’s Board of Canvassers. If the proposal is found to have enough valid signatures, it will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

According to the ACLU of Michigan website, the ballot measure would enshrine "the right to make all decisions regarding reproductive health" into Michigan's constitution. This includes birth control, miscarriage care, prenatal care, childbirth and abortion access.

In a statement issued after the ruling on Friday morning, Whitmer said she is "grateful" for the decision and Attorney General Dana Nessel's work.

"While today is welcome news, my team and I will remain vigilant in protecting reproductive freedom," Whitmer wrote. "The sad reality is that a number of leaders in the state are actively looking for ways to make sure Michigan’s draconian 1931 law, which bans abortion for all women, does not include exceptions for rape or incest, and criminalizes nurses and doctors who offer reproductive care, is the law of the land. I am proud of my team today, but our work continues."

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