Michigan’s 1931 anti-abortion law is unconstitutional, judge rules

MoveOn and Abortion Access activists rally outside the Supreme Court of the United States on 3 May 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi / Getty Images for MoveOn)

A 1931 Michigan law banning abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest violates the state's constitution, a state court judge ruled on Wednesday, barring any prosecutors from enforcing it.

Judge Elizabeth Gleicher of the Michigan Court of Claims found that Michigan’s constitution guarantees a right to bodily autonomy, including abortion. The ruling is a victory for reproductive health providers, including a Planned Parenthood affiliate, which had sued to block the law.

“A law denying safe, routine medical care not only denies women of their ability to control their bodies and their lives – it denies them of their dignity,” Gleicher wrote.

Leaders of the state’s Republican-controlled legislature, which defended the law, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The ruling came as Michigan’s Supreme Court was facing a Friday deadline to decide whether an amendment to decriminalise abortion statewide will appear on ballots in November. Read full story

Planned Parenthood and two doctors sued the state in April, as the US Supreme Court was considering whether to overturn its longstanding precedent in Roe v Wade that established a nationwide right to abortion. They said the 1931 law, which allows abortion only to save the mother’s life, violated the state constitution’s right to due process and equal protection under the law.

Gleicher temporarily blocked the law in May, stopping it from taking effect when the US Supreme Court in June overturned Roe in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health. Read full story

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney-General Dana Nessel, both Democrats, said the state would take no action to enforce the law. However, some county prosecutors had said they would enforce it if they were allowed to.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe, about half of US states are expected to seek to restrict abortions, or have already done so, sparking a wave of litigation around the country.

Democrats are increasingly hopeful that the Supreme Court decision will boost voter support in the midterm elections, which would historically see the party lose control of one or both houses of Congress.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson and Kanishka Singh; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Marguerita Choy.)


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