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Michigan Governor Whitmer sues to protect abortion rights if Roe overturns

The governor uses power to try to push him to the state Supreme Court.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is filing a lawsuit Thursday seeking to protect abortion rights in the state.

“No matter what happens to Roe, I will fight like hell and use every tool at my disposal as governor to ensure that reproductive freedom is a right for all women in Michigan,” she said. said in a statement. “If the Supreme Court of the United States refuses to protect the constitutional right to abortion, the Supreme Court of Michigan should intervene. We must trust women – our family, our neighbors and our friends – to make the decisions that are right for them. are best suited for their bodies and their lives.”

Michigan is one of about 20 states where abortion could be immediately banned if Roe v. Wade was overruled due to one or another of the pre-Roe laws that were never removed from the books, so-called “trigger” laws that would go into effect in the event. according to a 2021 report from the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

In the case of Michigan, abortion would be prohibited due to a 1931 state law that criminalizes abortion, including in cases of rape or incest. The only exception would be if there is a threat to the life of the pregnant person.

This law has not been enforced since Roe made abortion a national right, but it could come back into effect if Roe were overturned. Whitmer filed the lawsuit, which names elected prosecutors from 13 counties that have abortion clinics as defendants, to strike down the law.

As governor, she wields the rarely used executive message power, which includes the governor’s right under the state constitution to “take legal action on behalf of the state to enforce respect for any constitutional or legislative mandate”, to move the case forward. Indeed, Whitmer is asking the Michigan Supreme Court to take the case directly, bypassing the time it would take at first instance and on appeal.

“It’s no longer theoretical: it’s reality,” Whitmer said in his statement on the possibility of Roe being knocked down. “That’s why I’m filing a lawsuit and using my executive authority to urge the Michigan Supreme Court to immediately determine whether Michigan’s state constitution protects the right to abortion.”

Planned Parenthood of Michigan and Dr. Sarah Wallett, an abortion provider, also filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging the 1931 law, on their behalf and on behalf of their patients.

“I joined this lawsuit because it is fundamental to my oath as a doctor to do no harm – and to be compelled to deny abortion care and violate the human rights of my patients would cause them immense harm and harm. irreversible,” Wallett said in a statement.

Whitmer had previously supported an effort by the state legislature to repeal the law, but that effort did not move the needle.

Her decision to protect abortion rights in this expedited way comes as Roe v. Wade faces his biggest challenge in 49 years, with the U.S. Supreme Court set to rule in a Mississippi case early this summer.

This case revolves around a ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Previous Supreme Court precedent had held that abortion was legal up to the point of viability, which usually occurs between 24 and 28 weeks.

During closing arguments in December, conservative justices openly raised the prospect of overturning decades of legal precedent, sending flares across the country that the landscape of legal abortion could be radically changed.

If abortion becomes illegal in Michigan, Michigander’s average driving distance to the nearest abortion clinic would drop from 11 miles to 261 miles, according to the Guttmacher Institute, as patients would have to travel out of Michigan. State to have an abortion.

With that, Michigan joins several states that have in recent months tightened abortion rights protections, ostensibly in response to the possibility of Roe being overthrown.

“Regardless of our personal views on abortion, a woman’s health, not politics, should drive important medical decisions,” Whitmer said in her statement. “A woman should be able to make her own medical decisions with the advice of a trusted medical professional – politicians should not make that decision for her.”

The move also comes as the jury deliberates in a trial over an alleged 2020 plot to kidnap and kill Whitmer. The four men charged face life in prison if convicted.

ABC News

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