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Court of Appeals rules county prosecutors can enforce state's abortion ban

Abortion–South Carolina
Posted at 10:21 AM, Aug 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-01 17:20:42-04

DETROIT, Mich. — Michigan’s 83 county prosecutors can begin enforcing the state’s 1931 abortion ban, according to a new ruling from the Michigan Court of Appeals.

The decision comes after Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker and another prosecutor challenged the preliminary injunction issued by a Court of Claims judge to stop the ban from taking effect.

The Court of Appeals ruled the preliminary injunction did not apply to county prosecutors because they are considered part of local government and the preliminary injunction applies to state officials.

MORE: Gov. Whitmer files motion to protect right to abortion in Michigan Supreme Court

Michigan Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher issued the temporary injunction that blocked the enforcement of the ban earlier this year in anticipation of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, some county prosecutors in Michigan asked the Court of Appeals to issue a ruling saying that the temporary injunction did not apply to them.

READ: Kent County prosecutor may be willing to enforce Michigan's abortion ban

"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 ruling means county prosecutors can now bring felony charges against health care providers who perform abortions.

Prosecutor Becker issued a statement, thanking the court for its ruling and stating he "cannot and will not ignore a validly passed law."

“I have been informed that the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that county prosecutors are not bound by the injunction issued in Planned Parenthood of Michigan v Attorney General of the State of Michigan. I appreciate the clarification issued by the court in that case; as the court recognized and as I believed, the decision in that case applied only to state actors/ it never applied to county prosecutors. With that said, nothing changes from the statement I issued weeks ago. I cannot and will not ignore a validly passed law. ft a report is presented to this office, we will review it like we do any other report of possible criminal behavior. We will make the decision to charge, or not to charge/ based on the facts presented in the report and the applicable Michigan law. To this date no reports/ have been sent to this office for review,” stated Becker.

Planned Parenthood of Michigan released a statement following the ruling, clarifying that the ruling cannot take effect during a 21-day appeal window.

Planned Parenthood of Michigan President and CEO Paula Thornton Greear and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sarah Wallett discussed the ruling and status of abortion services later in the afternoon.


Planned Parenthood of MI responds to Court of Appeals ruling

“The injunction barring enforcement of Michigan’s 1931 criminal abortion ban remains in effect and applies to all Michigan county prosecutors. Under Michigan court rule MCR 7.215(F)(1)(a), ‘the Court of Appeals judgment is effective after the expiration of the time for filing an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, or, if such an application is filed, after the disposition of the case by the Supreme Court.’ This means that the Michigan Court of Appeals ruling cannot take effect during the 21 day appeal window.

"Planned Parenthood of Michigan will continue to evaluate our legal options and remains committed to protecting abortion access in Michigan.

"Planned Parenthood of Michigan will continue to provide abortion services in accordance with the law. PPMI patients can keep their appointments and our doors remain open.”

Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff S. Getting joined a coalition of county prosecutors declaring they will not enforce the abortion ban in favor of maintaining their attention on "serious crimes." Their joint statement reads:

"Today, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued a decision which suggests that county prosecutors have the authority to enforce Michigan’s archaic 1931 abortion law.

"Nearly four months ago—when the draft Supreme Court decision in Dobbs was leaked—all of us issued a statement indicating that we 'cannot and will not support criminalizing reproductive freedom or creating unsafe, untenable situations for health care providers and those who seek abortions in our communities.'”

"We reaffirm that commitment today. Litigation on this issue will undoubtedly continue. We have supported Governor Whitmer’s litigation efforts to guarantee the right to reproductive freedom. And we will continue to fight, in court, to protect the right to safe and legal abortion in Michigan.

"In the interim, however, we reiterate that we will not use our offices’ scarce resources to prosecute the exercise of reproductive freedom. Instead, as these issues continue to play out in court, we will remain focused on the prosecution of serious crimes.

"We hope you will continue to stand with us as we seek to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of everyone in our communities."

Chief Communications Officer Kaylie Hanson released a statement on behalf of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's office saying the Court of Appeals decision is under review and promises Whitmer will act in defense of women's rights in Michigan.

"We are reviewing the Court of Appeals decision.

"As we look at next steps, Michiganders should know that Governor Whitmer will continue to fight like to hell to protect a woman’s ability to make her own medical decisions with her trusted health care provider. With politicians in Michigan and across the country pushing dangerous abortion bans, even in instances of rape or incest, Governor Whitmer will do everything in her power to ensure that no one will be prosecuted or jailed for seeking or providing abortion care in our state.

"Earlier this year, Governor Whitmer took executive action asking the Michigan Supreme Court to resolve whether the state constitution protects the right to abortion. The Michigan Supreme Court could take up the governor's lawsuit at any time, and they should do so immediately to provide clarity for Michiganders that their right to abortion remains unchanged."

Michigan Attorney General also issued a statement following the ruling.

“Today’s ruling will not deter my efforts to continue to fight for Michigan women. The legal battle continues on multiple fronts and those of us who value access to reproductive healthcare and respect a women’s right to make the best decisions for herself, according to her own moral, cultural and religious beliefs are not backing down. While I respect the ruling from the court, it is by no means the final say on this issue in Michigan.”

Michigan State Medical Society Chief Operating Officer Kevin McFatridge says medical procedures should be decided on by patients and doctors, adding the ruling opposes the "fundamental principles of the patient-physician relationship."

“As a Society, we have always been and continue to be opposed to the potential criminalization of physicians and their patients in making health care decisions. Physicians and their patients should be free to consider, discuss, and pursue medical procedures guided by a physician’s best medical judgment and a patient’s physical health and safety. The ruling by the court today goes against these fundamental principles of the patient-physician relationship.”

Read the full Court of Appeals ruling below.

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