Court ruling will allow county prosecutors to criminally charge providers for abortion

By: - August 1, 2022 11:00 am

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A Monday ruling from the state Court of Appeals gives county prosecutors power to enforce Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban, despite there being an injunction currently blocking the ban from being enforced. 

According to the Court of Appeals judges, the injunction put in place by Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher in May only prevents state officials from filing criminal charges against health care providers who perform abortions. 

 “The core nature of a county prosecutor is that of a local, not a state official,” Judges Stephen Borrello, Michael Kelly and Michael Gadola wrote in their ruling. “Because county prosecutors are local officials, jurisdiction of the Court of Claims does not extend to them.”

This interpretation exempts county prosecutors from the injunction. 

Michigan’s 91-year-old ban is still on the books, which would make all abortions in the state a felony, unless to save the life of the “pregnant woman.” 

That law has not been in effect for nearly 50 years under Roe v. Wade and is currently unenforceable because of the court ordered injunction. But it is the only thing in the state that is currently protecting abortion access after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe in June. 

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Planned Parenthood of Michigan (PPMI) both filed separate lawsuits in April that would make the 1931 abortion ban unenforceable. 

Two county prosecutors in Michigan — Jackson County Prosecutor Jerard Jarzynka and Kent County Prosecutor Christopher Becker — have said since June that they would enforce the ban. 

The Court of Appeals order does not take effect for 21 days, which is after the expiration of the time for filing an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, or, if an application is filed, after the disposition of the case by the Supreme Court.

Planned Parenthood of Michigan said their clinics will “continue to provide abortion services in accordance with the law. 

PPMI patients can keep their appointments and our doors remain open.”

Last week Gleicher denied a motion from Republican state lawmakers to disqualify her from the case because of past donations to Planned Parenthood. 

Whitmer has attempted to expedite her case through the state Supreme Court, but those attempts have largely gone unanswered by the state’s highest court.

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.