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Attorney General Nessel won't enforce laws banning abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned

Posted: 10:50 PM, Apr 16, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-16 22:51:19-04
Dana Nessel

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan's attorney general said Tuesday that she will not enforce a state abortion ban if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.

Democrat Dana Nessel, speaking at a Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan conference, told the crowd of abortion rights supporters that it is "likely" the 1973 decision legalizing abortion will be struck down by the high court's conservative majority. Michigan is among 10 states that still have pre-Roe abortion bans on the books.

"I will never prosecute a woman or her doctor for making the difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy," Nessel said to applause. She said if her Republican predecessor Bill Schuette could go eight years without enforcing a "single" environmental regulation, "I think I can go four or maybe eight years without sending women to be butchered in back alleys."

The state Republican Party tweeted at Nessel that her statements are "further evidence that you have decided to only uphold the laws that you agree with. We will accept your resignation at any time."

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also spoke at the event near the Capitol, pledging to block the GOP-led Legislature if it passes anti-abortion bills. She pointed to Ohio, which last week banned abortions at the first detectable heartbeat, and Georgia, whose governor is expected to sign a heartbeat bill soon.

"You've got a powerful backstop in a veto from my office," Whitmer said.

She said the goal, however, is "not just to stop bad things from happening. It's to set an agenda that respects women and girls and family planning, set an agenda that elevates the conversation on real reproductive education for our youngest citizens."

The 2018 victories of Whitmer and Nessel have heartened abortion rights backers following eight years of full Republican control. Former Gov. Rick Snyder was more moderate on abortion legislation than many GOP lawmakers, but he did sign into law some restrictions.

The Legislature also sidestepped him by approving a voter-initiated law that requires residents or businesses wanting health insurance coverage for elective abortions to buy extra coverage.

At the national level, the American Medical Association and Planned Parenthood last month filed a lawsuit challenging a new Trump administration rule that would prohibit family planning clinics funded by the federal Title X program from making abortion referrals. Nessel in March joined Michigan with 20 other states in a separate suit against the rule.

Michigan receives more than $7 million a year in Title X funds.

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