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Michigan judge blocks enforcement of abortion ban

A Michigan judge Friday blocked county prosecutors from enforcing a 91 year-old law banning abortion in the state while courts consider a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law.

The ruling means abortion will remain legal in Michigan for the foreseeable future. The 1931 law bans abortion for all women, doesn’t include exceptions for rape or incest and calls for the prosecution of reproductive care providers.  

The ruling comes after the state Court of Appeals earlier this month cleared a path for county prosecutors to enforce the 1931 law by ruling they were not covered by a May order.

“It is clear to the Court that only one group is harmed by this statute- women and people capable of carrying children,” Oakland County Judge Jacob Cunningham said during his ruling.  

The 1931 abortion ban doesn’t pass constitutional muster, he said.

“Criminalization of our medical professionals for treating the women seeking appropriate safe, constitutionally protected medical care is an irreparable danger to our society at large,” Cunningham said. 

“Weaponizing the criminal law against providers to force pregnancy on our state’s women is simply contrary to the notion of due process, equal protection, and bodily autonomy in this court’s eyes,” Cunningham said. 

Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) requested the temporary restraining order to block prosecutors from enforcing the law, which was triggered to take effect when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade in June. 

The law was blocked from going into effect weeks before the Supreme Court ruling, but the state Court of Appeals later said that the preliminary injunction only applied to the attorney general’s office and not county prosecutors.

“The lack of legal clarity about abortion in Michigan has already caused far too much confusion for women who deserve certainty about their health care, and hardworking medical providers who should be able to do their jobs without worrying about being thrown behind bars,” Whitmer said in a statement. 

“While today is welcome news, my team and I will remain vigilant in protecting reproductive freedom. The sad reality is that a number of leaders in the state are actively looking for ways to make sure Michigan’s draconian 1931 law…is the law of the land. I am proud of my team today, but our work continues,” Whitmer said.

Voters could ultimately decide the fate of abortion in the state through a ballot initiative seeking to enshrine abortion rights into the state’s constitution.


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