Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Signs Law Repealing 1931 Statewide Abortion Ban
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed bipartisan legislation to end a 1931 Michigan state law that made it a felony to anyone assisting with an abortion punishable by four years in prison.
“Today, we’re going to take action to make sure that our statutes and our laws reflect our values and our constitution,” Whitmer said after signing the bill at an event near Detroit. The old law she argued, criminalized doctors and nurses for “just doing their job.”
The Great Depression-era law has not been enforced since the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade enshrined the right to abortion into the U.S. Constitution in 1973. When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, it effectively gave states the right to shape their own abortion laws. There was a renewed fear among pro-choice activists that the 1931 abortion ban would once again be enforced.
Courts temporarily blocked the 1931 ban from returning in August. In November, Michigan voters approved “Prop 3,” placing the right to an abortion in the state constitution. The new measure, signed by Whitmer on Wednesday, prevents future politicians in Michigan from resurrecting the old law.
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Michigan is one of three U.S. states which enshrined the right to an abortion in their state constitutions during the November 2022 elections, the other two being California and Vermont.
Today in the U.S., abortion is protected by law in 21 states, including the District of Columbia. In 26 States and three U.S. territories, the right to an abortion faces the prospect of severe limitation and outright prohibition.
The Supreme Court decision Dobbs vs. Jackson in June that overturned Roe v. Wade has quickly brought the issue of abortion to the forefront of politics and highlights one of the starkest differences between Democrats and Republicans.
For example, Whitmer’s opponent for Michigan governor in the last election, who she defeated, supported an abortion ban with the only exception being when the life of the mother is in peril. She does not support an exception for either rape or incest.
Many experts believe that Democrats nationwide performed much better in the November 2022 midterm elections than expected thanks to a backlash to the conservative-leaning Supreme Court’s decision on Roe.
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