Advance Notice: Briefs

Rural Michigan lacks access to abortion care, even while it’s still legal

By: - July 20, 2022 12:34 pm

A protester attends a June 24, 2022 rally against the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. | Photo by Andrew Roth

Access to abortion care is already a challenge for rural Michiganders, but it could get much worse if Republicans in the Legislature are able to end the preliminary injunction on the state’s 1931 abortion ban, reproductive health advocates say. 

“When you consider the many complications and things that go wrong during pregnancy, we must guarantee that Northern Michigan and folks in rural areas across the state have access to life saving medical services,” said Amanda Siggins, chair of the Wexford County Democrats, during a press conference Tuesday. “I live in Northern Michigan and there’s not a single abortion provider near me. That’s the result of decades of attacks from ultra-conservatives like Congressman [Jack] Bergman and Michigan state lawmakers who have systematically gotten rid of critical services that we relied on, while waging war on reproductive rights for people in my community seeking abortion care.”

Siggins said that even before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month, pregnant people in her community still had to travel about 100 miles to access care.

Now, state Republicans are working to make sure abortion care in the state isn’t a possibility at all. 

Planned Parenthood of Michigan filed a lawsuit in April to block enforcement of the state’s 1931 ban, which would make all abortions in the state a felony unless to save the life of the “pregnant woman.” Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher in May ordered an injunction in the lawsuit, temporarily blocking enforcement of the ban until the court makes a final decision in the case. 

That injunction is the only thing currently preventing the state from penalizing abortion providers in Michigan after Roe fell. 

Attorney General Dana Nessel during a press conference on abortion access in rural Michigan on July 19, 2022

Republicans in the state Legislature made a motion for summary disposition in the Planned Parenthood case and filed a request in an appellate court last week asking for the injunction to be lifted. 

State Attorney General Dana Nessel, who is named the defendant in the case, said the Republicans’ efforts are “a day late and a dollar short.”

Nessel said Tuesday that her department plans to respond to the motion for summary.

“We believe that the preliminary injunction should stay in place,” Nessel said. “We think that not only is there a good chance of success on the merits of the case, but we think there’ll be grievous harm in the event that suddenly all abortion related procedures will have to cease.”

Nessel said if the Republicans are successful in getting the Court of Appeals to lift the injunction, she believes it would immediately be appealed to the state Supreme Court. 

The state Supreme Court still hasn’t made a decision in a similar lawsuit to remove the 1931 ban and enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution filed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in April.

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers 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.