Michigan Court of Claims Permanently Blocks Unconstitutional 1931 Criminal Abortion Ban
For Immediate Release: Sept. 7, 2022
Historic decision means abortion is protected throughout state
LANSING — Today, Michigan Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher declared Michigan’s 1931 criminal abortion ban unconstitutional and issued a permanent injunction barring enforcement of the ban by the Attorney General and county prosecutors. This historic ruling is a critical victory for abortion access in a post-Roe v. Wade world and means that abortion care remains protected in Michigan.
Planned Parenthood of Michigan and Michigan abortion provider Dr. Sarah Wallett first challenged the 90-year-old felony abortion ban in state court on April 7, 2022, arguing that the law was unconstitutionally vague and violated Michiganders’ rights under the state constitution and civil rights laws. The Court of Claims granted a preliminary injunction on May 17, temporarily blocking the ban, which protected abortion care in the state even after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24.
Today, the Court of Claims affirmed that the 1931 ban “is facially unconstitutional because its enforcement would deprive pregnant women of their right to bodily integrity and autonomy, and the equal protection of the law,” wrote Judge Gleicher. The court also entered a permanent injunction prohibiting any enforcement of the 1931 law throughout the state, explaining that its order was “in accord with long-standing legal doctrine that a court’s declaration that a penal statute is unconstitutional prohibits its enforcement.”
The ruling is effective immediately, and the court also denied the Michigan legislature’s request to stay the decision.
Statement from Dr. Sarah Wallett, Chief Medical Operating Officer, Planned Parenthood of Michigan:
“We are proud to have won this victory on behalf of Michigan abortion providers and the patients who depend on us for care. Today’s Court of Claims ruling will ensure that Michiganders can continue to make deeply personal decisions about their health, lives, and futures without interference from state officials. I am grateful to every Michigander who has joined in this fight and to every provider who has continued to serve patients during this period of chaos and uncertainty.”
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“This is a historic victory for patients and providers in Michigan who have been forced to live under the threat of an archaic criminal abortion ban since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. 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. Planned Parenthood will never stop fighting for everyone’s ability to access abortion and determine the course of their own lives and futures.”
Statement from Bonsitu Kitaba, Deputy Legal Director, ACLU of Michigan:
“Today's decision is a monumental victory for the people of Michigan. The court's permanent injunction ensures access to essential health care, especially for those in marginalized communities including the people who are often the most harmed by these archaic abortion bans. Blocking the harmful 1931 law provides stability for pregnant people and their right to make these deeply personal decisions themselves. Today's ruling cements Michigan as a leader in reproductive freedom.”
Planned Parenthood of Michigan and Dr. Sarah Wallett are represented by Deborah LaBelle, Mark Brewer of Goodman Acker, P.C., and lawyers from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the ACLU of Michigan, and the Civil Rights Litigation Initiative at the University of Michigan Law School.
Planned Parenthood offers affordable reproductive health care for all people through medical services, education and advocacy and is the nation’s leading sexual and reproductive health care advocate and provider. Planned Parenthood of Michigan operates health centers across the state, providing medical services and sexuality education for nearly 60,000 Michiganders each year.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health care for all people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect, and without judgment, striving to create equitable access to health care. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable education and information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives. Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that supports the independently incorporated Planned Parenthood affiliates operating health centers across the U.S.
The American Civil Liberties Union has been at the forefront of every major civil liberties fight for over 100 years. The ACLU of Michigan, founded in 1959, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public interest organization dedicated to the defense and expansion of civil liberties and civil rights in Michigan. Our work is diverse and far-ranging, including criminal legal reform, seeking equality for the LGBT community, immigration reform, protecting our democracy and voting rights, free speech, eradicating racial and social inequities, and protecting and expanding reproductive rights and freedoms for all.