May 4, 2022 - Politics

How Michigan could preserve abortion rights if Roe v. Wade is overturned

Pro-choice demonstrators during a protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Michigan could establish a blueprint for reaffirming abortion rights at the state level if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Why it matters: The ruling would leave abortion rights up to individual states. Michigan could preserve its status quo by making abortion bans unconstitutional.

  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat up for re-election this fall, and Planned Parenthood of Michigan filed separate lawsuits last month to protect abortion rights under the state constitution and to prevent enforcement of a 1931 state law criminalizing most abortions that would take effect if Roe is struck down.
  • A ballot initiative is also underway to put abortion protections in the state constitution.

Zoom out: There are 13 other states with "trigger laws" or pre-Roe bans to prohibit abortion if Roe is overturned, per Axios' Oriana Gonzalez.

  • "I really hope that we can provide a blueprint" to preserve abortion rights, Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald tells Axios.

Context: Most abortions are illegal and punishable by up to four years in prison under the 1931 law. There are no exceptions for rape or incest, only to preserve the mother’s life. Roe superseded the law, but it never was repealed.

  • Attorney General Dana Nessel, another Democrat up for re-election, said at a press conference yesterday that she believes the law would take immediate effect after Roe is overturned — though some policy experts disagree with that take.
  • Under the law, a person who performs an abortion could be charged, potentially including doctors or women who self-abort, either through a procedure or medication, added Nessel.

Between the lines: Nessel and county prosecutors in seven of 13 counties with abortion providers have said they will not enforce the old law if Roe is struck down.

  • But the statute of limitations is six years, leaving the possibility that Nessel’s successor could enforce it retroactively.
  • That prospect could create a chilling effect among doctors who perform abortions.

Go deeper with this FAQ on Whitmer’s lawsuit and its implications from the Detroit Free Press.


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