PONTIAC, Mich. (WOOD) — A judge will decide Friday whether to issue a preliminary injunction to prevent county prosecutors from pursuing abortion cases or to scrap a temporary restraining order altogether, allowing them to file charges until state courts rule on challenges to Michigan’s 1931 ban.
In May, the Michigan Court of Claims ordered the state attorney general and anyone she supervises not to enforce the 1931 ban. Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker and Jackson County Prosecutor Jerard Jarzynka argued they were not supervised by the AG’s office, so the injunction did not apply to them. In a ruling released Aug. 1, the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed.
In response, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s attorneys filed for a temporary restraining order, which a judge granted. The motion noted that the Court of Appeals did not rule on the constitutionality of the abortion ban, which Whitmer and Planned Parenthood of Michigan have challenged.
In court, Whitmer’s attorneys argued for the injunction to replace the temporary restraining order, calling medical doctors to the stand Wednesday and Thursday.
On Thursday, Whitmer’s attorneys said the 1931 law carries felony penalties for “procuring a miscarriage,” with exception for saving the mother’s life, but the definition for miscarriage is vague. Doctors wondered if they could be charged for treating cases like ectopic pregnancies.
“One of the most common scenarios would be an ectopic pregnancy, which is a pregnancy that’s not intrauterine, it’s somewhere else in a variety of extrauterine locations, which is, by definition, not a viable pregnancy and poses a risk of threat to life and other serious complications if left untreated,” Dr. Diana Nordlund, an emergency medicine physician, said.
She said speedy treatment in those cases is important.
“Sometimes it can be treated with medication,” Nordlund said. “In other cases, the patient isn’t a candidate for that and then a procedure would be required.”
Lawyers representing the county prosecutors argued that the injunction is moot. They said the state’s constitution does not currently include any protections covering abortion.
They also put forth a witness who said terminating ectopic pregnancies would not be considered abortion.
“As an OB/GYN physician, none of us ever talk about management of a pregnant lady that has an ectopic pregnancy as an abortion. It is not,” Dr. Gianina Cazan-London, who said she specializes in high-risk pregnancies, said. “We treat ectopic pregnancies as a medical therapy indicated to save the mother’s life. So, you can ask any OB/GYN, in my opinion, that’s not an abortion, that’s a treatment for a life-endangering condition for the mother.”
The prosecutors’ attorneys also argued that abortion negatively affects mental health, calling a psychologist to the stand.
“(Abortion) is associated with an increased risk for mental health decline,” Priscilla Coleman, who has a Ph.D. in lifespan developmental psychology, said. “Not every woman who has an abortion is going to have a mental health problem. There’s now a set of well-established risk factors. We know the women who are most likely to suffer: They tend to be young; they tend to be coerced; they tend to be ambivalent about the decision; they tend to believe in the humanity of the fetus. These are risk factors that are not just isolated in the literature.”
Whitmer’s lawyers argued that the 1931 law is so vague that it is harmful and therefore its enforcement should be paused.
“The statute is incredibly vague and it places providers in a very, very difficult position, and that difficulty is then passed onto the clients,” the lawyer said.
“We are seeking a preliminary injunction,” Whitmer’s attorneys said in closing arguments. “All that is asking is to preserve the status quo while this court has the opportunity to consider the very significant legal issues in front of it. It’s a pause so no irreparable harm happens while the court gives due consideration to these weighty issues that are before it.”
The prosecutors’ side argued that abortion has never been the status quo in the state of Michigan because the right to an abortion came from the federal government that ended with the overturn of Roe v. Wade.
“I understand their reason for wanting (the injunction), but legally, there is absolutely no basis to it,” attorney David Kallman said.
He cited several court cases that upheld the constitutionality of Section 14, a part of the 1931 ban.
“There is little to no reason to question Section 14’s constitutionality … Section 14 was valid before, it was valid during Roe v. Wade and it’s still valid today,” he said.
The judge said he would announce his decision Friday morning at 10:30 a.m.