LANSING, Mich. – A draft opinion that suggests the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision reverberated in political battleground Michigan, where a near-total abortion ban may take effect again after nearly 40 years and is unlikely to be changed by the Republican-led Legislature.
Attention quickly turned to the courts, where Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Planned Parenthood — anticipating the ruling — filed lawsuits less than a month ago seeking to invalidate the 1931 law that remains on the books. The development also put a focus on the November election, when the governor and legislators are up for reelection and voters may decide whether to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution.
“To the nearly 2.2 million women in Michigan whose access to abortion hangs in the balance, I promise you this: I will fight like hell to make sure abortion remains safe, legal, and accessible in our state,” Whitmer tweeted late Monday.
Michigan’s pre-Roe law, which dates to an 1846 law, makes it a felony to use an instrument or administer any substance with the intent to abort a fetus unless necessary to preserve the woman’s life. There are no exceptions in cases of rape and incest, and Whitmer has said Michigan would have “one of the most extreme laws in the country.”
Republican legislators have blocked Democrats’ efforts to repeal the law. The state’s Democratic attorney general, Dana Nessel, and Democratic prosecutors in seven counties with abortion clinics in turn have pledged to not enforce it. The six other counties with clinics have Republican prosecutors.
All 10 Republican candidates vying to challenge Whitmer are anti-abortion. Many oppose it except to protect the woman’s life, aligning with Right to Life of Michigan’s position. At least two, businessman Kevin Rinke and State Police Capt. Michael Brown, favor additional exceptions such as for rape and incest.
“If true, I believe the Supreme Court acted properly by letting the people of Michigan make their own decision,” Rinke tweeted. “As governor, I will ensure that Michigan is a state that respects the sanctity of life.”
Another candidate, conservative former news host Tudor Dixon, issued a lengthy statement saying she is “pro-life” and telling women they do not have to “pick and choose” between having a baby.
“It may not be easy, but we will support you,” she said while calling for policy changes and urging corporations to support paid family leave.
“Life is winning!” chiropractor Garrett Soldano tweeted.
For abortion-rights supporters, the pending high court decision made clear the urgency of a ballot drive they announced in January in anticipation of the federal right to abortion being ended. The constitutional amendment would affirm the right to make pregnancy-related decisions without interference, including about abortion and other reproductive services such as birth control.
The Reproductive Freedom for All committee, which began circulating petitions in March, needs to collect about 425,000 valid voter signatures by July 11 to make the November ballot.
“The unfortunate reality is that our fate is now in our own hands; the U.S. Supreme Court will not protect us,” said Nicole Wells Stallworth, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan. “Our campaign to enshrine right to an abortion in the Michigan Constitution is essential, and we must remain vigilant and energized to see it through to the finish because the clock is ticking.”
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