Because the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overrule or weaken Roe v. Wade, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is asking the state’s Supreme Court to rule that a 1931 state law that criminalizes abortion is unconstitutional.
Michigan’s 1931 abortion law has never been repealed. But Michigan Supreme Court justices ruled that the law was unenforceable in 1973 after the U.S. Supreme Court found that state bans on abortion violated the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case following a Mississippi ban on abortion after 15 weeks. If the high court rules that Mississippi’s ban on most abortions is constitutional, performing or undergoing an abortion in Michigan may once again become a felony.
Whitmer is up for reelection this fall and is using an executive power to ask the Michigan Supreme Court to take up her case directly, circumventing the trial court and the state Court of Appeals, and to expedite a ruling.
Whitmer is the first governor to file a lawsuit in this context and use the executive message power to protect the right to abortion.
“It is polarizing in some camps. But this is overwhelmingly supported by the majority of people in Michigan” — seven in 10, Whitmer said, referencing a recent poll — “and regardless of how we personally feel about abortion, a woman’s health, not politics should drive important medical decisions. … With the dynamics on the Supreme Court, this is not a remote possibility. It’s become very clear that this is highly likely to happen. We have been investigating and strategizing about how we protect this right for women in Michigan,” Whitmer said.
“Nearly my whole life, this is a right that’s afforded women the freedom to live and enjoy full rights to privacy and autonomy and equality as American citizens. All of that is in jeopardy,” the Democratic governor said in a Wednesday afternoon interview with the Advance. “Regardless of why a woman might choose to exercise her rights in this regard, it is none of our business.”
The Michigan Supreme Court flipped to Democratic control in 2020 with a 4-3 majority.