How the battle over abortion rights in Michigan is impacting providers, patients

‘People should not have to go through this’

Michigan’s battle over abortion rights keeps shifting and changing with access to the procedure hanging in the balance. Right now, two court rulings are protecting providers and people who seek abortion from prosecution.

Michigan’s battle over abortion rights keeps shifting and changing with access to the procedure hanging in the balance.

Right now, two court rulings are protecting providers and people who seek abortion from prosecution.

A Court of Claims judge suspended the state law in May, saying it’s most likely unconstitutional. But on Monday, the Court of Appeals said that ruling didn’t apply to county prosecutors.

An Oakland County judge issued a temporary restraining order that prevents county prosecutors from enforcing the 1931 law.

Read: Oakland County judge blocks enforcement of abortion ban in Michigan

Local 4 spoke with a Michigan doctor who’s seeing women from other states flooding into Michigan. She said she’s also seen their emotional reactions as the legal battle makes them wonder: What comes next?

Dr. Audrey Lance is an OB-GYN with one of the Northland Family Planning Centers in Metro Detroit. Since Roe V. Wade was overturned, Michigan has become a destination for women seeking abortion medical care.

Lance said it has been exhausting, but she is thankful that they are still open for business so they can care for patients from Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. She said they’ve seen patients from as far away as Texas.

The law in Michigan is fragile, tentative, and often confusing. Even for the providers.

“I had to step in front of a waiting room full of patients who were there that morning to get abortion care and were just sitting waiting patiently to see the doctor and I had to tell them that I wasn’t sure if we could care for them that day,” Lance said. “It was absolutely panic, gasps, tears. It was heartbreaking. It was absolutely crushing to have to tell patients that.”

One of her patients is a 13-year-old rape victim. She said it was crushing to have that particular patient walk through protesters.

As both sides of the abortion battle fight in court, the reverberations are felt in the packed waiting rooms. The providers work through it, stop when they must have their attorneys interpret the latest rulings, and continue when they feel it’s safe to do so.

“People should not have to go through this. People should not have to wonder if the day that they happen to be sitting in the doctor’s office if they’re going to be able to get the care they need,” Lance said.

This will continue until the law is settled in Michigan.

Read: Michigan abortion rights ballot drive submits 753K signatures for November election


About the Authors:

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's a Peace Corps alum who spent her early childhood living in Sierra Leone, West Africa and Tanzania and East Africa.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.