The Michigan Court of Claims determined that the state’s 1931 abortion ban was unconstitutional.
The court ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood of Michigan in its lawsuit against the state’s attorney general and the state legislature on Wednesday, Sept. 7. In its 39-page decision, the court “permanently” barred the state from enforcing the 91-year-old rule and directed the attorney general to forward the decision to local prosecutors.
The court concluded that the abortion ban, which prohibited all abortions except those done to save the mother’s life, violated the Michigan Constitution’s Due Process and Equal Protection sections. As a result, enforcing the rule would “deprive women of their right to bodily integrity and autonomy, as well as equal legal protection.”
Enforcing MCL 750.14 will jeopardize the health and lives of women trying to exercise their constitutional right to abortion, a paragraph of the ruling states. Enforcement also threatens pregnant women with irreparable harm because women will be denied necessary, safe, and constitutionally protected medical treatment if abortion services are not available.
The decision of the court forbids the attorney general’s office from implementing the ban. Furthermore, Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher stated that the attorney general can oversee and regulate the acts of county prosecutors, implying that the ruling would apply to local prosecutors.
That decision appears to contradict a previous decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals, which said that county prosecutors are not subject to the Court of Claims’ authority.
Gleicher, on the other hand, stated that her order is not in conflict with the Court of Appeals’ decision. The veracity of the dicta in the Court of Appeal’s judgment is called into question by published case law and statutory authority.
Because county prosecutors are arguably agents of the attorney general for the purpose of enforcing and prosecuting offenses, Gleicher reasoned that MCL 14.30 requires their communication of the injunction. MCL 14.30 mandates the attorney general to supervise, confer with, and assist the state’s prosecuting lawyers.
The verdict on Wednesday will almost certainly be challenged by a higher court, as Gleicher’s prior ruling in the Planned Parenthood lawsuit was.
Following the order, the office of Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a statement declaring the verdict a success.
Abortion is important healthcare, and this order assures that all Michigan women have access to reproductive care, Nessel stated. While legal triumphs like today’s protect access to abortion care, for the time being, ensuring women’s freedom to make personal healthcare decisions now and in the future must be pursued at the ballot box.
Since late June, when the United States Supreme Court declared in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that there is no constitutional right to an abortion, the destiny of abortion access in Michigan has been uncertain. The decision overturned nearly 50 years of precedent and left abortion legality up to individual states.
Planned Parenthood filed its lawsuit on April 7, claiming that the abortion restriction violates the Michigan Constitution’s Due Process, Equal Protection, and Retained Rights clauses, as well as the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
Attorney General Dana Nessel, a proponent of abortion rights, has stated that she will not enforce the ban, thus the state legislature, backed by Republicans, has stepped in to defend it. Some county prosecutors have stated that they will enforce it as well.
Michigan’s abortion ban was declared unenforceable last month after an Oakland County court issued a preliminary injunction in a separate action aimed at protecting access to abortion treatment. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer filed the suit against 13 county prosecutors.
After hearing two days of testimony from health care professionals, Circuit Court Judge Jacob Cunningham sided with Whitmer. He ruled that the statute violates due process, equal protection, and bodily autonomy and that the state had successfully proved “a worrying and cognizable constitutional crisis as it relates to the medical profession and women and persons capable of producing children.”
Though the court recognizes that all sides of this issue are adamant in their convictions, the court would plunge the health care system into crisis, the severe cost of which would ultimately be placed on the women of our wonderful state, Cunningham stated.
Whitmer has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to hear her abortion restriction challenge, but it has yet to do so.
Meanwhile, a group of Michigan people is working to make abortion a constitutional right in the state. Reproductive Freedom for All, also known as Proposal 3 if it enters the ballot, received more than enough signatures to put the question to voters in November.
However, the proposal requires a court ruling to be approved for the ballot after the Board of State Canvassers failed to do so last week.