Judge orders preliminary injunction temporarily blocking Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban

One group is harmed by this statute: Women, and women capable of bearing children
Posted at 11:41 AM, Aug 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-19 17:37:06-04

(WXYZ) — Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Cunningham ordered a preliminary injunction blocking Michigan’s abortion ban.

The ruling came after a days-long court battle over reproductive rights.

Watch the full ruling below:

Injunction on abortion ban

The state was pushing for a continued pause on the enforcement of Michigan’s 1931 abortion law, which has been handed a variety of rulings from judges both before and after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Earlier this month, the State Court of Appeals allowed prosecutors to enforce the abortion ban, but in a separate case that same day, Cunningham issued a temporary restraining order while this case played out

Cunningham read his entire ruling from the bench, and called the state's witnesses "extremely credible," and said he would give their testimony heavy weight.

He also said that the testimony from one of the defense witnesses, Dr. Gianina Cazan-London, "was significantly discredited in the court's mind" because she exhibited a "personal bias," while saying her testimony provided no weight to their argument.

When speaking about the defense witnesses, Cunningham said he called one witness' testimony into question and said they exhibited bias and gave the pro-life testimony no weight.

“Testifying that all births, even if a result of rape, are part of woman hood... the testimony is dismissed as not credible in a practical sense,” said Judge Cunningham.

Cunningham called the state's abortion ban, "dangerous and chilling to our state's population of childbearing people and the medical professionals who care for them."

“By subjecting women to carry pregnancies in a forced manner, we are subjecting them to potentially negative health outcomes that they are not choosing for themselves,” Michigan's Chief Medical Executive Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian said in court.

The state also called on an OB-GYN at Michigan Medicine, Dr. Lisa Harris, to testify. She points to the ambiguity of the current law and the challenges doctors could face in trying to follow it.

“How high does the risk of dying need to be to sort of count or qualify as a life-preserving abortion? The second is how imminent does the… how sick does a patient need to be to quality under that exception,” she said in court.

Most county prosecutors in Michigan have said they didn’t plan on enforcing the decades-old law, but prosecutors in Kent and Jackson counties argued they couldn’t rule it out. Their attorney was in court this week arguing that this is not about someone’s belief in the right to abortion access, but rather the current law.

"The governor is required to enforce the law as it is, not in the way that she wants it to be," attorney David Kallman said.

The state wanted to keep this restraining order in place until the State Supreme Court determines if that 1931 ban is legal.

It's not clear when the State Supreme Court could take this up, but a petition to legalize abortion in Michigan did submit hundreds of thousands of signatures to get on the November ballot. It still has to be approved by the Board of State Canvassers before getting on the November ballot.

Dr. Yuliya Malayev from Metro Obstetrics and Gynecology in Commerce says the ruling eases stress on many patients. She has seen an increase in patients seeking sterilization in reaction to the uncertainty over whether abortion is legal. They tell her they are concerned about the potential of a birth control failure, considering the law.

“They’re so nervous,” said. Dr. Malayev.

She says she also has seen a number of patients with very wanted pregnancies face complications and stress as the laws have been changing. She says abortion is not always what people think it is. She says it is often needed to preserve health and fertility.

“It is a woman who finds out she has a life threatening condition and it requires immediate treatment and she needs to not be pregnant so she can pursue that treatment. It is a woman who finds out that her baby has a lethal anomaly. And she already watched a baby die of the same thing and she doesn’t want to go through that emotional stress again or that physical stress on her family. It is a woman who is coming in with a life threatening infection who is going to lose her pregnancy, whether it be in three hours, or three days and not having the ability to access care in a timely manner. That is abortion,” said Dr. Malayev.

WATCH: State attorneys react to judge's ruling in Michigan abortion ban case

State prosecutors react to judge's preliminary injunction

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released a statement after the ruling, saying in part, “I am grateful for this ruling that will protect women and ensure nurses and doctors can keep caring for their patients without fear of prosecution. I am particularly grateful to Attorney General Dana Nessel and her team for their work on behalf of the state."

Attorney General Dana Nessel also released a statement saying:

“Abortion is critical healthcare. Uncertainty around the law has a chilling effect on the conduct of doctors and therefore limits access to care for Michigan women. Maintaining access to reproductive healthcare is absolutely necessary for the health and well-being of women and it is our duty to ensure that access for the roughly two million women of reproductive age who call Michigan home.

Absent this preliminary injunction, physicians face a very real threat of prosecution depending on where they practice. There is no doubt that the statue criminalizing abortion is in direct conflict with the ability of the medical community to provide the standard of care consistent with their education, training, expertise and oath.

Women do not need to be protected from themselves by denying them the ability to make personal medical decisions consistent with their own moral, cultural, religious and ethical beliefs. Restricting access to reproductive healthcare jeopardizes the ability of physicians to deliver appropriate care and it denies women the right to decide the most intimate issues regarding their health, their bodies and their lives.”