A judge blocked enforcement of a 1931 Michigan ban on abortion Monday, just hours after the state Court of Appeals said county prosecutors were not covered by a May order and could enforce the prohibition following the fall of Roe v. Wade.
Oakland County Judge Jacob Cunningham stepped in at the request of attorneys representing Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who favours abortion rights.
Cunningham issued a restraining order against prosecutors in counties with abortion providers and scheduled a hearing for Wednesday.
“The legal fight in Michigan continues and this temporary restraining order ensures prosecutors cannot target women or providers in the short term,” said Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat who won’t defend the 1931 law, which makes it a crime to perform abortions unless the life of the mother is in danger.
In May, weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court threw out its landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion, Judge Elizabeth Gleicher said Michigan’s dormant ban was likely unconstitutional. She signed an injunction, which meant abortion has remained legal even after the Supreme Court decision.
But on Monday, the appeals court said Gleicher’s injunction applied only to the attorney general’s office, not county prosecutors who handle most crimes.
Republican prosecutors in Kent and Jackson counties said they planned to enforce the abortion ban, meaning that providers could get charged with a felony.
“If a report is presented to this office, we will review it like we do any other report of possible criminal behaviour,” Kent County prosecutor Christopher Becker said earlier in the day. “We will make the decision to charge, or not to charge, based on the facts presented in the report and the applicable Michigan law.”
Kent County includes Grand Rapids, the state’s second-largest city.
Meanwhile, seven Democratic prosecutors, including Kym Worthy and Karen McDonald in the Detroit area, have said they will not enforce the 1931 law.
Planned Parenthood of Michigan said it will continue providing abortions.
Total or near total abortion bans are already in effect in the nearby states of Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin, with bans expected in roughly half the states.
Earlier this month, abortion rights activists submitted signatures to bring a constitutional amendment before Michigan voters in November that would affirm the right to make pregnancy-related decisions without interference, including abortion and reproductive services such as birth control.
If the amendment passes, it would supersede the 1931 law.
In a statement to CBC News on Monday, Planned Parenthood of Michigan (PPMI) said it will continue to provide abortion services in accordance with the law.
“Planned Parenthood of Michigan will continue to evaluate our legal options and remains committed to protecting abortion access in Michigan,” the statement reads. “PPMI patients can keep their appointments and our doors remain open.”