Michigan Court of Appeals Just Dropped Abortion Ruling That Could Have Huge Impact

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that county prosecutors are not bound by a previous court order that sought to prevent the enforcement of a dormant law criminalizing most abortions in the state.

A flurry of lawsuits followed the ruling, culminating in a temporary restraining order issued by an Oakland County judge at Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s request, which prevented prosecutors from charging anyone with violating the state law that bans most abortions and dates back to 1931.

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However, opponents of abortion rights had previously claimed that the Court of Appeals ruling would have far-reaching consequences, effectively making the law prohibiting all abortions except those done to protect the life of the pregnant person effective immediately.

Michigan Court of Appeals Dropped Abortion Ruling

“We’re ecstatic. It’s wonderful. That’s exactly what we’ve been saying all along,” said David Kallman, an attorney for Great Lakes Justice Center, a conservative organization representing several Michigan prosecutors who challenged the injunction.

Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel, and many other pro-abortion rights advocates are fighting to maintain legal access to abortion following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade in June. The Court of Appeals’ decision continues to have sweeping and drastic effects on the state.

Abortion-rights advocates in Michigan are likely to file an appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court as soon as possible in response to the ruling, which has caused widespread confusion and alarm about the state’s abortion laws.

Paula Thornton Greear, the organization’s president and CEO emphasized that abortion is still safe and legal in Michigan.

“I want to make one thing abundantly clear: Abortion is still safe and legal in Michigan today,” said Paula Thornton Greear, president, and CEO of the organization. 

Michigan Court Appeals Just Dropped Abortion Ruling Could Have Huge Impact
Michigan Court Appeals Just Dropped Abortion Ruling Could Have Huge Impact

The group claimed the injunction wouldn’t take effect for a while because of the court’s procedures. Attorney Mark Brewer for Planned Parenthood of Michigan has stated that the order will not go into effect for another 42 days to allow for an appeal to be heard. Before Brewer’s statement on Monday, Planned Parenthood had estimated that time frame to be 21 days.

According to Kallman’s group, that is not true, and the injunction has been lifted. Prosecutors may move forward with charges regardless of Brewer’s arguments.

Brewer has stated that his group will seek contempt of court proceedings against any prosecutors who seek to bring charges under the 1931 law.

“While the injunction is in place, providing abortions in Michigan is legal,” Brewer said.

Whitmer and her team filed an emergency legal request with a local judge late Monday, effectively ending the wrangling by temporarily blocking prosecutors from enforcing the 1931 abortion ban.

This filing is connected to another lawsuit brought by Whitmer regarding abortion, and it argues that enforcement should stay until the courts resolve outstanding legal questions regarding the constitutionality of abortion in Michigan.

Whitmer said in a statement, “Today’s dangerous decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals clears a path for county prosecutors to use Michigan’s extreme 1931 abortion ban to prosecute doctors and nurses and jail them for doing their job.”

“That’s why I’m taking swift action by seeking an injunction barring enforcement of the order. We can’t put Michigan women, doctors, and everyone else at risk of more confusion. After Roe v. Wade was overturned in June, reproductive freedom in Michigan was left on a knife’s edge, as today’s unexpected action demonstrates.”

Judge Jacob James Cunningham of Oakland County agreed with Whitmer’s argument and issued the TRO on Monday night.

Nessel has previously stated that the legality of abortion in Michigan is “hanging by a thread.” As she tweeted multiple times on Monday, “the thread has torn.”

The constitutionality of the state’s 1931 abortion ban and the existence of a right to abortion in the state’s constitution are both issues that are likely to be decided by the state’s highest court in the end. Despite their verdict, efforts are ongoing to add the right to abortion to the state Constitution via a ballot initiative.

Organizers of the ballot initiative submitted over 750,000 signatures, far more than was necessary. Even if organizers believe they have collected enough valid signatures, the question won’t appear on the ballot until the Board of State Canvassers formally decides whether or not they have.

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