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Michigan Judge Rules 90-Year-Old Abortion Ban Is Unconstitutional

Pro-choice activists protest during a rally

A judge in Michigan has ruled that an abortion ban passed in 1931 that’s still on the books in the state is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.

The law as written makes it a felony to perform an abortion in nearly every instance. A suit brought by Planned Parenthood of Michigan and Michigan abortion provider Dr. Sarah Wallett argues that the law is unconstitutionally vague and that it violates the state constitution’s protections for the rights to liberty, bodily integrity, equal protection, and privacy. Michigan Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher issued a temporary injunction suspending the law back in May, after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson WHO decision was leaked. Wallett and Planned Parenthood got a jump on things to make sure the law couldn’t take effect even after the official decision was handed down and Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey were overturned.

Now Judge Gleicher has made that injunction permanent, barring the state’s Attorney General from enforcing the ban. (In fact, the AG, Dana Nessel, has said she would not enforce the law, but she’s up for re-election in November so this might be necessary for future AGs.)

The ruling will no doubt be challenged in higher courts but it’s a good step in a state where anti-abortion advocates are fighting as dirty as they can. This is the state, after all, where an elections board just blocked a massively popular amendment from appearing on ballots, which would have enshrined the right to abortion in the Michigan constitution, all because of some minuscule spacing issues in the text.

“Manifestly, criminalizing abortion will eliminate access to a mainstay healthcare service. For 50 years, Michiganders have freely exercised the right to safely control their health and their reproductive destinies by deciding when and whether to carry a pregnancy to term,” Gleicher wrote in her opinion. “Eliminating abortion access will force pregnant women to forgo control of the integrity of their own bodies, regardless of the effect on their health and lives.”

(image: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.