Michigan court rules 1931 abortion ban is unconstitutional

The ruling bars the state AG and county prosecutors from enforcing the ban.

September 7, 2022, 5:26 PM

A Michigan Court of Claims judge ruled Wednesday that the state's 1931 abortion ban violates the state constitution, according to a copy of the ruling obtained by ABC News. The ruling permanently bars the attorney general and county prosecutors from enforcing the ban in the state, effectively legalizing abortions in Michigan.

The ruling from Judge Elizabeth Gleicher came as part of a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood of Michigan and Dr. Sarah Wallett, the organization's chief medical officer, against Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Michigan state House of Representatives and Senate, challenging the ban.

"This historic ruling is a critical victory for abortion access in a post-Roe v. Wade world and means that abortion care remains protected in Michigan," Planned Parenthood of Michigan said in a statement to ABC News.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a canvass kickoff event after meeting with volunteers on Michigan Primary Election Day in Grand Rapids, Mich., Aug. 2, 2022.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The 1931 law makes it a felony to provide an abortion unless it is medically necessary to save the life of a pregnant person. The law does not make exceptions for rape or incest. The law also states that if the pregnant person dies, the provider would be charged with manslaughter.

The ruling found the state's abortion ban unconstitutional as it violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Michigan constitution and would deprive pregnant women of their right to bodily integrity, autonomy and the equal protection of the law, Gleicher wrote in the order.

Gleicher ruled that enforcement of the law will "endanger the health and lives of women seeking to exercise their constitutional right to abortion" and threatens pregnant women with irreparable injury because without access to abortion care they will be denied "appropriate, safe and constitutionally protected medical care," court documents show.

The court also found that the law would cause Planned Parenthood and Wallett "irreparable injury" by exposing them to "felony prosecution and imprisonment for performing a medically necessary procedure that their patients are constitutionally entitled to have," according to the ruling.

PHOTO: Richard Houskamp, left, Anthony Daunt and Mary Ellen Gurewitz, members of the Michigan state Board of Canvassers listen to a speaker during a hearing in Lansing, Mich., Aug. 31, 2022.
Richard Houskamp, left, Anthony Daunt and Mary Ellen Gurewitz, members of the Michigan state Board of Canvassers listen to a speaker during a hearing in Lansing, Mich., Aug. 31, 2022. The board is scheduled to decide whether a ballot initiative that seeks to enshrine abortion rights into Michigan's constitution should go to voters in November.
Carlos Osorio/AP

The court also found that issuing a permanent injunction will cause no harm to the attorney general nor does it adversely affect the public interest.

"The harm to women on, the other hand, is a wholesale denial of their fundamental right to an abortion, necessitating permanent injunctive relief," according to the ruling.

The ruling is effective immediately, and the court also denied the Michigan legislature's request to stay the decision, according to Planned Parenthood.

"We are proud to have won this victory on behalf of Michigan abortion providers and the patients who depend on us for care. Today's Court of Claims ruling will ensure that Michiganders can continue to make deeply personal decisions about their health, lives, and futures without interference from state officials," Wallett said in a statement to ABC News.

The judgment is the latest development in the state's battle over abortion rights which began when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, eliminating federal protections for abortion rights.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has vowed to fight for abortion rights, bringing another lawsuit challenging the law's constitutionality and asking the state's supreme court to determine whether the abortion law already on the books is unconstitutional.

Last month, a state court granted a request by Whitmer's lawyers for a temporary restraining order on the abortion ban, pending ongoing litigation. In a ruling, Judge Jacob Cunningham argued that not issuing the injunction would cause harm to the public.

The courts will also be left to decide whether Michigan voters will have an abortion question on the ballot this November. The Board of Canvassers was deadlocked, unable decide on a ballot initiative, which would leave it to voters to divide whether to add abortion protections to the state's constitution.

ABC News' Paulina Tam contributed to this report.

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