LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Officials from across the Great Lakes State are responding to the Michigan Court of Appeal’s decision that allows prosecutors to enforce the 1931 law that bans abortions.

FILE – Michigan Office of the Governor, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich. on Oct. 8, 2020. Jurors on Friday, April 7, 2022, acquitted two men and deadlocked on two others accused of plotting to abduct Whitmer in 2020. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP, File)

Among those responding to the decision are Attorney General Dana Nessel, House Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski and more.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Today’s dangerous decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals clears a path for county prosecutors to use Michigan’s extreme 1931 abortion ban to prosecute doctors and nurses and jail them for doing their jobs. That is why I have taken immediate action and filed a request for a temporary restraining order against enforcement. We cannot risk further confusion for women, health care providers, and all Michiganders. As today’s unexpected action proves, the overturn of Roe v Wade in June has left reproductive freedom hanging by a thread in Michigan. I have taken a number of unprecedented steps to protect the 2.2 million women in Michigan who would lose the right to control their own bodies. I will keep fighting like hell to protect women and health care providers.” 

FILE – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks during a news conference in Detroit on Oct. 14, 2021. (Max Ortiz/Detroit News via AP, File)

Attorney General Dana Nessel

Today’s ruling will not deter my efforts to continue to fight for Michigan women. The legal battle continues on multiple fronts and those of us who value access to reproductive healthcare and respect a women’s right to make the best decisions for herself, according to her own moral, cultural and religious beliefs are not backing down. While I respect the ruling from the court, it is by no means the final say on this issue in Michigan.” 

Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (MI-08)

Elissa Slotkin
U.S. Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin held a cyber security panel in East Lansing on Tuesday.

“This whiplash of today’s court rulings related to Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban makes one thing clear: we must do away with it once and for all in order to preserve personal freedom and avoid the fear and confusion this ongoing litigation creates for providers and women across the state. Thankfully, the latest ruling in Oakland County today means that abortion won’t be prosecuted in the state of Michigan, at least for now.

Allowing the ban to take full effect will have chilling consequences on services, no matter what county you live in, as doctors face the very real possibility that providing an abortion—even to a woman who has been raped, or who is in the middle of a miscarriage—could land them in jail. The law could also lead to local prosecutors bringing charges against women for their private choices, including basic pregnancy care sought by the one in four women who go through miscarriages of a wanted pregnancy.

We’re already seeing the horror stories starting to come out of places like Texas, where women in the middle of having a miscarriage are now being sent home and told to return when their fever gets higher or they bleed hard enough. No matter our political views, women understand how frightening this is for their lives and ability to have children in the future. That’s what this is about: the personal freedom to make private decisions without government interference.

My opponent has made it clear he wants the ban in place. He brags about being ‘100% Pro-Life—No Exceptions,’ including for rape or incest, and he’s led legislation that would allow prosecutors to bring additional criminal charges against doctors who provide reproductive care. For someone who talks A LOT about how much personal freedom means to him, he’s very willing to turn around and strip women of the freedom to make their own choices.  

Fortunately, voters will have the final say on Michiganders’ personal freedom. Organizers submitted more than 750,000 signatures for a ballot initiative that would enshrine the Roe standard in Michigan’s constitution and invalidate the 1931 ban. It’s therefore up to Michigan voters to decide which way we want our state to go this November.”

House Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski

This ruling makes Michigan a far more dangerous place to be pregnant. Navigating pregnancy care and crisis events in a confusing, county-by-county landscape under vaguely defined or non-existent standards of “danger to the life of the mother” will, at best, result in dangerous delays in healthcare situations that often require immediate action. Miscarriages and their complications are unfortunately common occurences and our doctors shouldn’t fear a jail sentence for delivering the care they know is best for their patients. Life-saving  medical care should not be determined by the whims and politics of local prosecutors. This is a dangerous landscape when treatable conditions may be prolonged as a perverse roulette game until they bring patients closer to losing their lives to justify treatment of “life of the mother in danger” while waiting for legal clarification, documentation, authorization and then finally, maybe, the care they need.”

State Rep. Laurie Pohutsky

It’s a dangerous maze of vague legal definitions, county-by-county jurisdictional questions, and extremist politics to navigate during any pregnancy. There are countless factors in assessing care needs during a pregnancy, or deciding to end one, and the court has now added to that list the discretion and political allegiances of your county prosecutor. We need a state-level law to protect Michiganders’ personal freedoms, and the rights to privacy and the healthcare that is right for them in every county — we need the Reproductive Health Act to defend these rights and, in light of today’s ruling, we need it right now to protect the lives of pregnant Michiganders.”

State Prosecutors

In response to the Court of Appeals decision, seven prosecutors from across the state of Michigan have pledged to protect a woman’s right to choose, including Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon:

As Michigan’s elected prosecutors, we are entrusted with the health and safety of the people we
serve. We believe that duty must come before all else. For that reason, we are reassuring our
communities that we support a woman’s right to choose and every person’s right to reproductive
freedom.

Michigan’s anti-abortion statutes were written and passed in 1931. There were no women
serving in the Michigan legislature. Those archaic statutes are unconstitutionally and
dangerously vague, leaving open the potential for criminalizing doctors, nurses, anesthetists,
health care providers, office receptionists – virtually anyone who either performs or assists in
performing these medical procedures. Even the patient herself could face criminal liability under
these statutes.

We believe those laws conflict with the oath we took to support the United States and Michigan Constitutions, and to act in the best interest of the health and safety of our communities. We
cannot and will not support criminalizing reproductive freedom or creating unsafe, untenable
situations for health care providers and those who seek abortions in our communities. Instead,
we will continue to dedicate our limited resources towards the prosecution of serious crimes and
the pursuit of justice for all.

Today, our Governor filed a lawsuit to guarantee the right to reproductive freedom in Michigan, and to prevent the arbitrary enforcement of those 90-year-old statutes. These statutes were held unconstitutional five decades ago and are still unconstitutional today. We support the Governor
in that effort.

Other prosecutors that signed the statement include

  • Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald
  • Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy
  • Marquette County Prosecutor Matthew Wiese
  • Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit
  • Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting
  • Genesee County prosecutor David Leyton

Jackson County Prosecutor Jerry Jarzynka released the following statement:

“With regard to the Court of Appeals decision released today, the court clarified the Planned Parenthood lawsuit against the Michigan Attorney General by specifically recognizing that the Court of Claims preliminary injunction order only applies to “state officers” such as the Attorney General. The appellate court was clear that county prosecutors are “local officials” and as such, they are not subject to the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims because county prosecutors are clearly local officials elected locally and paid by the local government. This holding confirms my earlier position that the preliminary injunction only applied to a state officer such as the Attorney General.

As a result, nothing has changed from my statements made several months ago. The United States Supreme Court made a ruling sending the abortion issue to each state to decide to regulate or ban. Michigan has a validly passed law on abortion. I cannot ignore the law and a decision made by the United States Supreme Court. If a police agency submits a police report for a possible violation of Michigan’s abortion statute, we will review it like we do for any other report for possible charging and it will depend on what evidence is submitted and can we prove a criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Planned Parenthood of Michigan

The injunction barring enforcement of Michigan’s 1931 criminal abortion ban remains in effect and applies to all Michigan county prosecutors. Under Michigan court rule MCR 7.215(F)(1)(a), “the Court of Appeals judgment is effective after the expiration of the time for filing an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, or, if such an application is filed, after the disposition of the case by the Supreme Court.” This means that the Michigan Court of Appeals ruling cannot take effect during the 21 day appeal window. 

Planned Parenthood of Michigan will continue to evaluate our legal options and remains committed to protecting abortion access in Michigan. 

Planned Parenthood of Michigan will continue to provide abortion services in accordance with the law. PPMI patients can keep their appointments and our doors remain open.

David A. Kallman, Attorney at Law for Great Lakes Justice Center

In a victory for the rule of law, the Michigan Court of Appeals today ruled that Court of Claims trial Judge Elizabeth Gleicher’s injunction against Attorney General Dana Nessel does not apply, and has never applied, to county prosecutors. The Court of Appeals affirmed what Jackson County Prosecutor Jerard Jarzynka and Kent County Prosecutor Christopher Becker argued all along—local county prosecutors cannot be bound by the Court of Claims. The prosecutors challenged Judge Gleicher’s injunction through a Complaint for Superintending Control filed in the Court of Appeals by the Great Lakes Justice Center. Alliance Defending Freedom joined in the complaint on behalf of Michigan Right to Life and the Michigan Catholic Conference.

The Court of Appeals ruled, “… plaintiffs Jarzynka and Becker are not and could not be bound by the Court of Claims’ … preliminary injunction because the preliminary injunction does not apply to county prosecutors.” Therefore, this injunction has never barred a county prosecutor from filing charges under the abortion statute.

Because the Court found that the Court of Claims’ injunctive order did not apply to local prosecutors, it dismissed the complaint for Superintending Control. As the Great Lakes Justice Center argued, the Court of Appeals agreed that county prosecutors are local officials and are not state actors. Therefore, the Court of Claims had no jurisdiction over the prosecutors and could not enjoin them from exercising their prosecutorial discretion.

Any claim that this order is not effective for 21 days is without merit. The injunction was never applicable to county prosecutors in the first place.

“This is a great win for the Rule of Law and limiting judges to their proper jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals reaffirmed the independent authority of local prosecutors and upheld Michigan’s Constitution. Michigan’s abortion statute is immediately in effect and enforceable by local prosecutors,” Kallman said.