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Whitmer issues legal challenge to 1931 Michigan abortion law

President of Planned Parenthood Leana Wen speaks during a protest against abortion bans on May 21 outside the Supreme Court in Washington.
President of Planned Parenthood Leana Wen speaks during a protest against abortion bans on May 21 outside the Supreme Court in Washington.

Hoping to keep abortion legal even if State GOP overturns it

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has filed a lawsuit to protect abortion rights in Michigan even if the U.S. Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade.

The governor filed a legal challenge Thursday that seeks to strike down Michigan’s 1931 law that bans abortion except when necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman.

She wants the Court to declare that abortion rights are protected by the state Constitution. She says that would prohibit local prosecutors from enforcing the 1931 law, which would go back into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Previously, Michigan Democrats have introduced bills that would explicitly repeal the 1931 law, and replace it with one that guarantees access to abortion. Those bills have not advanced through the Republican-dominated state Legislature.

Which is why Whitmer is going to court.

She says, “Since the Legislature is made up of leaders who don’t recognize the constitutional right of women to be full American citizens and have bodily autonomy, it was important for us to use these unique tools to take the issue right to the state Supreme Court.”

Whitmer is also asking the Michigan Supreme Court to bypass lower courts and take the case right away. A case challenging Roe v. Wade is currently being decided in the U.S. Supreme Court, and a decision is expected soon.

“We know that there is a determination coming from the United States Supreme Court in a matter of weeks, perhaps, and that’s why right now it’s crucial that the court acts swiftly and takes this case.”

The defendants in the case are prosecutors in 13 counties with medical clinics that perform abortions. The lawsuit seeks to prohibit prosecutors from enforcing Michigan’s abortion ban.

Other states are also moving to protect the right to abortion ahead of the Supreme Court's decision, including Colorado, while some are passing legislation to further restrict abortion rights should Roe be overturned.

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