‘It Doesn’t Matter What County You Live in Now’: Abortion is Legal Across Michigan

FILE PHOTO: A crowd of people gather outside the Supreme Court, early Tuesday, May 3, 2022 in Washington. A draft opinion circulated among Supreme Court justices suggests that earlier this year a majority of them had thrown support behind overturning the 1973 case Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide, according to a report published Monday night in Politico. It's unclear if the draft represents the court's final word on the matter. The Associated Press could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the draft Politico posted, which if verified marks a shocking revelation of the high court's secretive deliberation process, particularly before a case is formally decided. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

By Lisa Hayes

August 19, 2022

Summary: Abortion is legal in all Michigan counties, following a judge’s ruling on Friday. An attorney representing two Republican county prosectors said an appeal is planned, but today’s ruling is expected to hold until the November general election, when Michiganders will vote on a ballot measure enshrining reproductive rights into the state’s constitution.

MICHIGAN—After nearly two months of confusion over the status of abortion rights in Michigan, a court ruling released Friday will protect abortion care providers from prosecution for the foreseeable future—long enough, advocates hope, to let voters decide the issue.

Oakland County Judge Jacob Cunningham ruled that county prosecutors may not enforce Michigan’s 1931 ban on abortion, which was triggered following the fall of Roe v. Wade in late June. 

“The harm to the body of women and people capable of pregnancy in not issuing the injunction could not be more real, clear, present and dangerous to the court,” Cunningham said during his ruling.

The ruling comes after a series of decisions that effectively sent abortion rights in Michigan into legally gray areas. In May, Michigan Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher signed a preliminary injunction, suspending the state’s 1931 abortion ban. The case was brought in anticipation of what happened on June 24, when the US Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade—the 1973 ruling that provided federal protections for abortion nationwide. 

While a majority of prosecutors in Michigan counties with abortion clinics have said they would not enforce the 91-year-old ban, Republican prosecutors in Kent, Jackson, and Macomb counties decried the injunction, insisting that they should be permitted to charge abortion care providers with a felony and that Gleicher’s ruling only applied to the attorney general’s office—not local courts. On Aug. 1, the state Court of Appeals agreed that county prosecutors were not covered by the May order, and could enforce the 1931 ban—which only allowed for abortions to save the life of the woman.

But later that day, following the request of attorneys representing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer—herself a former prosecutor—Judge Cunningham issued a restraining order against prosecutors in Michigan counties with abortion providers, and scheduled a hearing. 

After listening to arguments Wednesday and Thursday this week, Cunningham granted a preliminary injunction, which is expected to keep abortion legal across the state until voters have their say in November. A ballot measure to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution received 753,759 signatures of support—a state record—and is awaiting final approval for the ballot from the Board of Canvassers. 

“This court finds it is overwhelmingly in the public’s best interest to let the people of the great state of Michigan decide this matter at the ballot box,” Cunningham said. 

In his ruling, Cunningham said that he found the testimony from the defense witnesses as “unhelpful and biased.” The three witnesses from the state, on the other hand, were “extremely credible.”

“I’m relieved that everyone in this state knows that it doesn’t matter what county you live in now, you are not as a provider going to be prosecuted,” Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said following the ruling.

The status of abortion is expected to drastically impact Michigan’s November General Election. A recent Courier Newsroom/Data for Progress poll found that 43% of Michigan voters said they’d vote against candidates who supported banning abortion. Sixteen percent said it would make them reconsider their vote, and 35% said support for banning abortion would not affect how they voted. A poll from Progress Michigan found that 80% of Michiganders believe the decision to get an abortion should be made between a patient and a doctor.

The AP contributed to this story.


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