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Report: GOP lawmakers have spent $71K in taxpayer funds defending 1931 abortion ban

By: - August 5, 2022 12:40 pm

At the Michigan Hall of Justice in Lansing, a few dozen people gathered on June 24, 2022 to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. | Photo by Andrew Roth

As the fight over implementation of Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban continues in the courts, a liberal advocacy group says Republican lawmakers have spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on legal resources to defend it.

Progress Michigan says it submitted financial disclosure requests to the Michigan House and Senate Business offices to determine what public resources were being spent on the Republican effort to defend what the group calls an “unpopular, draconian law.”

Those records show that as of July 29, more than $70,000 was spent on legal services related to the 1931 abortion ban, which prohibits doctors from performing any abortions except to save the life of the “pregnant woman.”

It has been blocked since May when Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher issued an injunction while a Planned Parenthood lawsuit was in litigation.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday during a campaign rally at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. | Ken Coleman

Just hours after the state Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that county prosecutors were exempt from the injunction, another judge issued a temporary restraining order at the request of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer barring the ban from being enforced. 

Progress Michigan Executive Director Lonnie Scott said the group will continue to request updated information as the case moves forward.

“Spending taxpayer money to defend a law that that rips reproductive freedom away from people shows how far Republicans will go to push their extremist anti-abortion agenda,” said Scott. “Our elected Republican lawmakers are pushing extremist agendas when they should be serving the people of Michigan, who want to control their own reproductive health choices.”

Progress Michigan says it sent requests by email on July 22 and received responses from both offices by email on July 29. The responses from the House Business Office and the Senate Business Office show that a total of $71,500 of taxpayer money was spent on legal services related to Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban. The funds were paid to Schaerr Jaffee LLP, a Washington, D.C., firm, and Kienbaum Hardy Viviano Pelton & Forest PLC, based in Michigan.

Scott said the responses were very limited in scope because the Legislature is not subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

“This is another shining example of why Michigan’s transparency laws need an overhaul,” he said. “The legislature is able to shroud their actions in shadows and secrecy because they aren’t subject to FOIA disclosures. Taxpayers deserve to know exactly how much of our money the state legislature is going to spend attacking reproductive freedom and healthcare access in our state on behalf of the radical right. We expect this is just the tip of this iceberg.”

Polling released last month by Progress Michigan showed 58% of Michigan voters support repealing the 1931 law and allowing abortion protections to remain in place.

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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.