Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks to The Michigan Daily at the Union in Nov. Madeline Hinkley/Daily. Buy this photo.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging Michigan’s 1931 ban on abortion. This announcement comes in the wake of rumors that the U.S. Supreme Court may overturn or weaken the 1973 landmark abortion ruling Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government intervention.

Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban criminalizes the act of providing an abortion — including for instances of rape or incest —  but was rendered unconstitutional by the Roe v. Wade decision. If the Roe v. Wade ruling is overturned, the ban will be enforceable again. 

According to Whitmer’s lawsuit, the ban violates the Due Process Clause of the Michigan Constitution, which provides a right to privacy and bodily autonomy and violates Michigan’s Equal Protection Clause. Whitmer filed in the Oakland County Circuit Court and is using her executive authority to seek immediate intervention by the Michigan Supreme Court. Whitmer is the first governor to file a lawsuit to protect abortion rights since the Supreme Court signaled the possibility of overturning Roe v. Wade with the appointment of justices Brett Cavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

“If Roe is overturned, abortion could become illegal in Michigan in nearly any circumstance—including in cases of rape and incest— and deprive Michigan women of the ability to make critical health care decisions for themselves,” the press release read. “This is no longer theoretical: it is reality. That’s why I am filing a lawsuit and using my executive authority to urge the Michigan Supreme Court to immediately resolve whether Michigan’s state constitution protects the right to abortion.”

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said abortion rights are fundamental rights that all people in Michigan should have. 

“The right for women in Michigan to make their own choices about their healthcare––to have a right to privacy, to be empowered, to choose what’s right for them, with their family, with their healthcare professionals, and not with politicians meddling––we believe it is a fundamental right here in the state of Michigan,” Gilchrist said. “The governor is using powers that are unique to her, that the voters of Michigan bestowed upon her as governor of Michigan, to take this question all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court –– the court that settles and interprets state law –– to affirm that … the right to an abortion exists in the state of Michigan and is protected by our state constitution.”

Gilchrist said the right for a person to get an abortion is essential to economic freedom. According to a study from the Washington Educational Journal, families with infants can be expected to pay $11,000 a year for childcare and only one in six children are eligible for subsidies under the federal program.

“We think this is a matter of fairness and privacy of choice, and we think it’s also a matter of economic justice and security,” Gilchrist said. “Oftentimes, for many women, the choice to have children or not to have children is one of the single biggest economic decisions they will make and it will have a huge and lasting economic impact on them for a lifetime. To have that choice is to have … control over your future and to take that choice away is to hamper your economic freedom, so we think that this is an issue of economic justice as much as an issue of access to abortion, choice and privacy.”

In the press release, Whitmer said banning abortion could also keep families in poverty.

“If a woman is forced to continue a pregnancy against her will, it can have devastating consequences, including keeping families in poverty and making it harder for women and families to make ends meet,” the press release read. 

The lawsuit asks the court to recognize the right to abortion as a constitutional right under the Due Process Clause of the Michigan Constitution and asks the court to stop the enforcement of the 1931 ban. 

Gilchrist said the goal of the lawsuit is to establish the right to abortion for Michigan residents so that the outcome of Roe v. Wade will not impact their rights.

“We hope to affirm and assert that women have the right to choice, the right to privacy and the right to access and have an abortion here in our state, and establish this protection at the state level so that women in Michigan … will have this right regardless of what happens with Roe versus Wade,” Gilchrist said.

Whitmer said in the release that she plans to ensure that all people in Michigan have reproductive freedom.

“No matter what happens to Roe, I am going to fight like hell and use all the tools I have as governor to ensure reproductive freedom is a right for all women in Michigan,” the press release read. “If the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to protect the constitutional right to an abortion, the Michigan Supreme Court should step in. We must trust women—our family, neighbors, and friends—to make decisions that are best for them about their bodies and lives.”

Daily News Editor Kate Weiland can be reached at