‘The Right Thing to Do’: Michigan’s 1931 Abortion Ban is Officially Toast

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is joined by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, bill sponsors and other activists in repealing Michigan's abortion ban. (Courtesy/Governor Gretchen Whitmer)

By Kyle Kaminski

April 5, 2023

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed bipartisan legislation this week that repealed Michigan’s unenforceable ban on abortions—solidifying what voters decided on Proposal 3.

MICHIGAN—An unenforceable abortion ban from 1931 has been erased from state law after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation to repeal the archaic statute this week—effectively cementing reproductive freedoms that voters supported when they passed Proposal 3 last year.

“Michiganders sent a clear message: we deserve to make our own decisions about our bodies,” Whitmer said. “Standing up for people’s fundamental freedoms is the right thing to do.”

The package of bills formally repeal the nearly 100-year-old statute that criminalizes abortion in Michigan. It also aligns state law with the newly amended State Constitution under Proposal 3—a citizen-led initiative for reproductive rights that passed with 57% of the vote last year. 

Both chambers of the state Legislature passed the bills last month, with almost no Republican lawmakers voting to support the repeal despite the clear voter directive outlined in Proposal 3.

“It’s also just good economics,” Whitmer added. “By getting this done, we will help attract talent and business investment too. I will continue to use every tool in my toolbox to support, protect, and affirm reproductive freedom for every Michigander—and I’ll work with anyone to make Michigan a welcoming beacon of opportunity where anyone can envision a future.” 

Michigan is now the 10th state to protect reproductive freedoms and ensure its residents have access to safe, legal abortion in the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson. It’s a concept that has proven popular among Michiganders; Polling shows that 77% of residents believe abortion should be a woman’s decision to make with a medical professional, and not dictated by the government.

“While there is still much work to be done to ensure abortion is accessible to everyone in our state, repealing the 1931 criminal abortion ban once and for all is the first step in that process,” said Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) in a statement announcing this week’s bill signing.

Cleaning Up the Books

The dormant 1931 law targeted by the bills made it a crime to perform an abortion in Michigan, unless the life of the mother is in danger. An injunction issued by Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher effectively prevented the law from being enforced anywhere in Michigan since last summer, and another ruling in September declared the law to be unconstitutional. 

Under the State Constitution, Proposal 3 technically superseded the abortion ban that was repealed this week—but advocates for reproductive freedom said it was still important for lawmakers to clean up the books and ensure that state law aligns with the will of the people.

“When the people of Michigan speak, the legislature listens and acts,” said state Rep. Stephanie Young (D-Detroit).  “I’m grateful that women who make the difficult decision to seek an abortion for any number of reasons, can rest assured they won’t be criminalized, but instead supported.” 

Specifically, House Bill 4006 repealed a section of the state’s penal code which had prescribed felony charges for those who administer abortion care, as well another section that made it a misdemeanor to advertise or sell medications that are designed to induce an abortion. Senate Bill 2 repealed another section that criminalized informational materials about abortion care, and House Bill 4302 deleted a section of sentencing guidelines to conform with the other changes.

Added Nicole Stallworth, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan: “Michigan continues to lead the way in the fight to restore our fundamental right to access abortion. Abortion providers will no longer have to fear they will be criminally prosecuted for delivering the essential, life-saving health care their patients need and deserve.” 


  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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