A Wednesday afternoon ruling by Judge Elizabeth Gleicher declared that Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban violates the state’s constitution. The case marks the first time a judge in Michigan has made any ruling on the constitutionality of abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. The 1931 law, which criminalizes all abortions except to save the life of the pregnant person, is currently blocked by a preliminary injunction.
The injunction, initially issued by Gleicher in May, has faced multiple challenges. A Michigan Court of Appeals judge ruled in August that county prosecutors should be able to enforce the ban, saying the temporary block did not apply to local officials. This decision was quickly reversed by an Oakland County judge after a push from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s legal team, putting in place a new temporary injunction.
Gleicher ruled that the 1931 law violates the rights to bodily autonomy and equal protection outlined in Michigan’s Constitution, writing in her opinion that the law places an undue burden on pregnant people.
“Our Constitution does not permit the Legislature to impose unjustifiable burdens on different classes of pregnant women,” Gleicher wrote according to the Detroit Free Press. “It also forbids treating pregnant women as unequal to men in terms of their ability to make personal decisions about when and whether to be a parent.”
Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson wrote in a press release obtained by The Daily that declaring the law unconstitutional will help solidify abortion rights and help deter potential threats to access to care.
“By permanently blocking the 1931 law criminalizing abortion, Michigan’s Court of Claims has protected the continuity of care that Michiganders have enjoyed for nearly half a century and ensured that no overzealous prosecutor can come between a patient, their provider, and their health care,” McGill Johnson wrote.
Whitmer expressed her gratitude for the ruling in a Wednesday press release and said she will continue working to cement the right to abortion in Michigan, even though it is expected that the ruling will be appealed.
“I have been fighting like hell to protect reproductive freedom in Michigan for months and am grateful for today’s lower court ruling declaring our extreme 1931 abortion law unconstitutional,” Whitmer said. “However, this decision is likely to be challenged, and we know that there’s a group of extremists who will stop at nothing to ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest.”
Right-wing conservatives have repeatedly taken issue with Gleicher’s past affiliations with Planned Parenthood. The Free Press reported in April that she donates to Planned Parenthood annually and was a pro bono attorney for the organization from 1996 to 1997. According to the Free Press, judges are legally allowed to donate to political organizations, but Republicans have been concerned about Gleicher’s ability to remain impartial.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, released a statement Wednesday saying Gleicher’s decision blocks a law that will protect women and children across the state.
“Michigan women and their unborn children deserve so much better and the pro-life movement will never stop fighting for them,” Dannenfelser said. “We urge the voters to remember this betrayal and hold extremists like Whitmer and Nessel accountable at the ballot box.”
Attorney General Dana Nessel echoed Whitmer’s push for further legal and political action in a press release, saying Michigan must take measures to permanently enshrine the right to abortion.
“Abortion is essential healthcare, and this order ensures access to reproductive care for all Michigan women,” Nessel said. “While legal victories like today’s preserve access to abortion care for now, ensuring women have the right to make personal healthcare decisions today and in the future must be pursued at the ballot box.”
The future of the Reproductive Freedom for All ballot initiative remains uncertain following a split vote on Sept. 1 from the Michigan Board of State Canvassers when deciding whether to approve the measure for the November ballot. Reproductive Freedom for All appealed the decision, sending the measure to the state Supreme Court for approval. The court is expected to announce its ruling by Friday — the day the November ballot must be finalized.
Daily Staff Reporter Samantha Rich can be reached at email@example.com.