Whitmer calls on GOP Legislature to repeal Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban 

By: - September 8, 2021 6:21 am

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, May 2019 | Andrew Roth

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged the Michigan Legislature on Tuesday to repeal a 1931 state law criminalizing abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court last week issued an unsigned order allowing a Texas abortion ban law to go into effect.

Experts say the recent SCOTUS opinion signals the fall of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that gave Americans the constitutional right to access a safe and legal abortion. 

“If the court’s decision in the Texas case is any indication, a majority of justices are willing to throw out the constitutional right to choose that has been in place for 48 years and repeatedly upheld for decades,” Whitmer said. 

However, the GOP-controlled Legislature is unlikely to act to protect reproductive rights, after taking up a number of anti-abortion measures this term. 

In June, for instance, the House passed House Resolution 22 introduced by state Rep. Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville) calling “for the enforcement of all laws regulating or limiting the practice of abortion” in the state. The resolution is not binding.

Michigan bills to restrict access to abortions

  • Senate Bill 366, introduced by Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), would define a fetus at least 12 weeks old as a dependent for purposes of claiming a state income tax deduction.
  • House Bill 4737, introduced by Rep. Julie Calley (R-Portland), would it a crime to knowingly perform or induce an abortion on a woman who wants it because of the sex, race or a disability of the fetus.
  • House Bill 5086, introduced by Sue Allor (R-Wolverine), also known as “The Women’s Right to Know Act,” would require doctors to provide information on the abortion pill reversal procedure (APR), require abortion providers to check for a fetal heartbeat prior to providing an abortion and disclose the likelihood of a miscarriage. 
  • House Bill 4644, introduced by Rodney Wakeman (R-Saginaw Twp.), would amend the Michigan Tax Act to give tax exemptions to a person who is 12 weeks pregnant by Dec. 31 and is under the care of a licensed physician. 
  • House Resolution 22, introduced by Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville), would call for the enforcement of all laws regulating or limiting the practice of abortion.

Whitmer went on to say the 1931 Michigan law was “arcane” and would also criminalize health care providers who offer reproductive services.  Whitmer also highlighted that any abortion bans would disproportionately affect minority communities.

“I have always stood with those fighting for their right to choose, and I will not stop now,” Whitmer said. “I will stand in the way of any bills that seek to strip away fundamental rights from women or get in the way of doctors’ ability to do their jobs.”  

In 1931, Michigan passed a law that states: “Administering drugs, with intent to procure miscarriage — Any person who shall willfully 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.”

Lori Carpentier, former CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, told the Advance in July the law is unclear and would be challenged in court. However, Genevieve Marnon, Right to Life of Michigan’s legislative director, said the group believes Michigan’s 1931 law does not need to be adjusted. 

“I don’t believe it needs to be changed whatsoever,” Marnon said in July. “The law banning all abortions except to save the mother would be the law of the land, and I don’t believe the language needs to be updated.”

Whitmer also announced her support for Senate Bill 70, sponsored by state Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), that would terminate the 1931 law.

Geiss will be joined alongside Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) and other reproductive rights activists on Wednesday to discuss Senate Bill 70 at a press conference on protecting women’s access to health care in the state.

In a poll released in August 2020, North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling found that 77% of Michigan voters agree that any decision made regarding pregnancy should be made by the woman while 74% support reproductive freedom, believe abortion should be legal and that the government should not have a say in what a woman should do about her own pregnancy. 


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Julia Forrest
Julia Forrest

Julia Forrest is a contributor to the Michigan Advance. She has been covering Michigan and national politics for two years at the Michigan Daily and OpenSecrets. She studies public policy at the University of Michigan.