Michigan court: County prosecutors can enforce abortion ban
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Abortion could become illegal in parts of Michigan after a state Court of Appeals panel ruled Monday that a state judge’s injunction blocking the enforcement of a pre-Roe ban does not apply to county prosecutors.
The 91-year-old abortion ban, which had been blocked in May from taking immediate effect, makes it a crime for physicians to perform abortions unless the life of the mother is in danger.
The new ruling will have the largest impact on the 13 prosecutors in the state that have abortion clinics in their county. Seven of those prosecutors — all Democrats — have previously said they will not enforce the 1931 law.
Republican prosecutors in Kent and Jackson counties, however, plan to enforce the 1931 abortion ban, meaning that abortion providers could get charged with a felony.
“If a report is presented to this office, we will review it like we do any other report of possible criminal behavior,” Kent County Prosecutor Christopher Becker said in a statement Monday. “We will make the decision to charge, or not to charge, based on the facts presented in the report and the applicable Michigan law.”
Becker, who had previously said in June he would ignore the injunction and enforce the 1931 law, said no reports have been brought to his office to this point. Kent County includes Grand Rapids, the state’s second largest city.
The thread has torn. The Michigan Court of Appeals has just ruled that MI’s 83 county prosecutors can now begin enforcing the abortion ban. But note that the Dem prosecuting attorneys have committed to refuse to enforce the ban, and the injunction still applies to my department. https://t.co/0bUZuUhQDf
— Dana Nessel (@dananessel) August 1, 2022
Jackson County Prosecutor Jerard Jarzynka didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The three-judge panel’s ruling came after Becker, Jarzynka and several anti-abortion groups requested the Court of Appeals overturn a lower courts injunction on the 1931 ban. The court’s ruling Monday said that Becker and Jarzynka don’t have standing because the injunction “does not apply to county prosecutors.”
Total or near total abortion bans are already in effect in the nearby states of Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin, with bans expected in roughly half the states.
Michigan’s Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel, who has previously said she will not defend the 1931 law, said in a statement Monday that the “legal battle continues on multiple fronts,” and that the ruling is not the “final say on this issue in Michigan.”
Planned Parenthood of Michigan said in a statement following the ruling that it will continue providing abortions and is evaluating legal options.
Earlier this month, abortion rights activists submitted signatures to bring a constitutional amendment before Michigan voters in November that would affirm the right to make pregnancy-related decisions without interference, including about abortion and reproductive services such as birth control. If the amendment passes, it would supersede the 1931 law.
Joey Cappelletti is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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