Michigan governor sues to secure abortion rights, vacate ban

Posted at 9:10 AM, Apr 07, 2022

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — LANSING, Mich. (AP MODIFIED) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has sued to protect abortion rights, asking a court to recognize a right to abortion under the state constitution.

The Democratic governor also is seeking to overturn a 176-year-old ban in Michigan that may take effect if the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling is vacated.

"In the coming weeks, we will learn if the U.S. Supreme Court decides to overturn Roe v. Wade,” said Governor Whitmer in a statement. “If Roe is overturned, abortion could become illegal in Michigan in nearly any circumstance—including in cases of rape and incest— and deprive Michigan women of the ability to make critical health care decisions for themselves. This is no longer theoretical: it is reality. That’s why I am filing a lawsuit and using my executive authority to urge the Michigan Supreme Court to immediately resolve whether Michigan’s state constitution protects the right to abortion.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday against prosecutors in 13 counties with an abortion clinic, comes as the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority considers allowing states to ban abortion much earlier in pregnancy and potentially overturning the right.

The governor, who is up for reelection this year, is expected to request that the Michigan Supreme Court quickly take the case.

On the same day, Planned Parenthood of Michigan also filed a lawsuit in the court of claims to block the enforcement of the state's 90-year-old felony abortion ban. The 1931 law threatens physicians who provide abortions with prison. Planned Parenthood wants a court order to restrain the Michigan Attorney General from enforcing the ban against abortion providers.

“I’m an abortion provider, and the care my colleagues and I provide every day to our patients is essential to their ability to lead the lives they choose. I joined this suit because it is fundamental to my oath as a physician to do no harm – and being forced to deny abortion care and violating the basic rights of my patients would cause them immense, irreversible harm. Michiganders deserve to know that the health care they have relied on for 50 years will be there when they need it, no matter what,” said Dr. Sarah Wallett, plaintiff and chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of Michigan, in a statement.

In regards to the lawsuits filed, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, released the following statement:

“In 2018, when I campaigned to be Michigan Attorney General, I did so knowing the fate of Roe v. Wade was at stake. Unenforced and antiquated pre-Roe abortion bans and laws, like the 1931 Michigan statute criminalizing abortion, could become de facto state law if Roe is overturned.

Let me be very clear, I will not use the resources of my office to defend Michigan’s 1931 statute criminalizing abortion. As elected prosecutors and law enforcement officials, we have the opportunity to lead and to offer peace of mind to women and health-care professionals who might otherwise be placed in the untenable position of choosing between the exercise of personal health-care choices and the threat of criminal prosecution.

Abortion care is an essential component of women’s health care. As this state’s top law enforcement officer, I have never wavered in my stance on this issue, and I will not prosecute women or their doctors for a personal medical decision.”