Judge blocks county prosecutors from enforcing 1931 abortion ban following appeals court ruling

Posted at 10:10 AM, Aug 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-01 17:58:15-04

(WXYZ) — An Oakland County judge has granted Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer's request for a temporary restraining order barring several Michigan Prosecutors from enforcing Michigan's 1931 abortion ban.

Whitmer requested the restraining order after the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that county prosecutors can file charges related to Michigan's 1931 abortion ban because they are local officials and a temporary injunction filed earlier this month by a Court of Claims lawsuit applied to state officials.

That ruling from the Court of Appeals came in a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood.

The temporary restraining order was issued by Judge James Cunningham in 6th Judicial Circuit Court in Oakland County in Whitmer's lawsuit attempting to stop enforcement of the 1931 Michigan law that not only bans abortion but criminalizes it, with the person being charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor.

"Any person who shall wilfully administer to any pregnant woman any medicine, drug, substance or thing whatever, or shall employ any instrument or other means whatever, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of any such woman, unless the same shall have been necessary to preserve the life of such woman, shall be guilty of a felony, and in case the death of such pregnant woman be thereby produced, the offense shall be deemed manslaughter," Michigan's law reads.

Earlier this month, Michigan Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher issued a temporary injunction that blocked the enforcement of the ban if the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, which did happen in June.

After that happened, some county prosecutors in Michigan asked the Court of Appeals to issue a ruling saying that the temporary injunction did not apply to them.

"In light of the four-part inquiry from Manuel, we conclude that, under the totality of the circumstances, the core nature of a county prosecutor is that of a local, not a state official. Because county prosecutors are local officials, jurisdiction of the Court of Claims does not extend to them," the court wrote in its ruling that came out on Monday.

"The Michigan Court of Appeals has just ruled that MI’s 83 county prosecutors can now begin enforcing the abortion ban. But note that the Dem prosecuting attorneys have committed to refuse to enforce the ban, and the injunction still applies to my department," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a tweet on Monday morning.

Whitmer filed her separate lawsuit over the state's abortion ban. Currently, they are waiting for a decision from the state Supreme Court to see if it will take up the case.

Whitmer issued the following statement about asking for the restraining order:

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.

While all of this happens, an organization that is aiming to legalize abortion in Michigan through a ballot proposal turned in more than 600,000 signatures and is awaiting verification from the Michigan Board of State Canvassers before it could appear on the November ballot.