Michigan judge declares 1931 law banning abortions ‘unconstitutional’ in final ruling

Court of Claims issues permanent injunction, barring state AG, county prosecutors from prosecuting abortion care

DETROIT, MI - JUNE 24: Abortion rights demonstrators chant as they gather to protest the Supreme Court's decision in the Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health case on June 24, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Emily Elconin/Getty Images) (EMILY ELCONIN, 2022 Getty Images)

A Michigan Court of Claims judge on Wednesday declared the state’s 1931 law banning most abortions is unconstitutional, months after issuing a preliminary injunction that blocked enforcement of the law.

Judge Elizabeth Gleicher issued a permanent injunction on Wednesday that bars the state attorney general and county prosecutors from enforcing a nearly century-old law that makes most abortion care felonious in Michigan. Enforcement of the law has been blocked since May after Gleicher issued a temporary injunction in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

This is the first official ruling declaring the Michigan law, MCL 750.14, unconstitutional -- though the law has been challenged in other lawsuits and in other courts since the overturning of Roe.

As of Sept. 7, abortion care is not punishable by law in Michigan.

Judge Gleicher has sided with plaintiffs Planned Parenthood of Michigan and the American Civil Liberties Union in their lawsuit against Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Michigan Legislature, which joined the lawsuit as intervening defendants. Similar to Gleicher’s preliminary injunction ruling, the judge said Wednesday that the 1931 law violates people’s right to bodily integrity as outlined in the state constitution by preventing them from receiving necessary health care.

“A law denying safe, routine medical care not only denies women of their ability to control their bodies and their lives -- it denies them of their dignity,” Gleicher said. “Michigan’s Constitution forbids this violation of due process.”

You can read Judge Gleicher’s entire ruling below.

Judge Gleicher’s decision effectively prevents the acting Michigan attorney general and all county prosecutors from enforcing the 1931 law. A Michigan Court of Appeals decision previously ruled that the state’s 83 county prosecutors were not included under Gleicher’s preliminary injunction, but Gleicher said in the latest ruling that individual prosecutors are, indeed, bound to the Court of Claims’ decision.

County prosecutors have still been blocked from enforcing the law anyway, however, due to another case playing out in the Oakland County Circuit Court. There, Judge Jacob Cunningham ruled in August that county prosecutors temporarily cannot enforce the abortion ban, suspending the law until a final decision was reached in that case.

More: Judge temporarily blocks county prosecutors from enforcing Michigan abortion ban

The ongoing legal battles surrounding Michigan’s abortion ban have been extensive and confusing -- but it doesn’t end there.

Judge Gleicher’s decision comes as the Michigan Supreme Court decides if an abortion rights ballot proposal will appear in front of Michigan voters in November.

The Reproductive Freedom for All initiative submitted more than the required amount of valid petition signatures, according to the Michigan Bureau of Elections, but the Board of State Canvassers deadlocked during a vote to certify the proposal for the ballot. Leaders behind the initiative appealed the deadlock vote -- which is essentially a “no” -- to the Michigan Supreme Court, which must determine if the proposal will go on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The state’s high court has until the end of the week to decide, as the November ballot must be finalized by Sept. 9.

Prior to this appeal, the Michigan Supreme Court has not said whether they will hear any cases on the state’s abortion ban, despite several requests that they do. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer filed a lawsuit in May asking that the state supreme court declare MCL 750.14 unconstitutional, but they still haven’t said whether they would hear the case.

Judge Gleicher’s decision Wednesday could be appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals, and any decision they make could be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court. If the state’s high court does allow the abortion rights proposal to appear on the general election ballot, then Michigan voters may determine the future of abortion care themselves, before the court hears a case at all.

Read more: Abortion proposal returns spotlight to obscure Michigan board

Find Judge Gleicher’s entire Wednesday ruling below.

AG Nessel responds to ruling

Michigan AG Dana Nessel responded to Wednesday’s ruling by issuing the following statement:

“Abortion is essential healthcare, and this order ensures access to reproductive care for all Michigan women. While legal victories like today’s preserve access to abortion care for now, ensuring women have the right to make personal healthcare decisions today and in the future must be pursued at the ballot box.

“In 2018, when I campaigned to be Michigan’s Attorney General, I did so knowing the fate of Roe v. Wade was at stake. Unenforced and antiquated pre-Roe abortion bans and laws, like the 1931 Michigan statute criminalizing abortion, became de facto state law when Roe was overturned.

“As Attorney General, I have used the resources of my department to ensure access to care at every opportunity, but our fundamental rights should not be subject to the discretion of elected office holders. All Michiganders have a duty to ensure their rights are preserved and protected.”

“On May 17, Judge Gleicher issued a preliminary injunction in Planned Parenthood of Michigan v Attorney General of the State of Michigan, enjoining any enforcement of MCL 750.14 by Nessel.

“In today’s ruling, Judge Gleicher determined that, ‘MCL 750.14 is facially unconstitutional because its enforcement would deprive pregnant women of their right to bodily integrity and autonomy, and the equal protection of the law. Based on the reasoning set forth in the Court’s opinion, plaintiffs have proven actual success on the merits of these two aspects of their pleaded claims, and that they have no alternative or adequate remedy other than permanent injunctive relief to preserve their constitutional rights.’”

Reaction is pouring in after a judge strikes down Michigan's 1931 Abortion Law calling it unconstitutional. That ruling came down Wednesday afternoon from a court of claims judge in Lansing, which blocks enforcement of the law. It's a decision that will likely face challenges as the abortion battle continues in Michigan.
A Michigan Court of Claims judge on Wednesday declared the state’s 1931 law banning most abortions is unconstitutional, months after issuing a preliminary injunction that blocked enforcement of the law.

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.