Doctors who perform abortions in Kent County, which includes Grand Rapids, will face criminal charges.
Kent County Attorney Christopher Becker pledged to uphold Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban in a statement released Monday, following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
The news is a little disconcerting because the 1931 law is currently blocked by injunction by a Michigan Court of Claims judge, making abortion still legal in the state.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to simply ignore a law/any law, which was passed by the Michigan Legislature and signed by the Governor,” Becker said in the statement. “I have always considered that it would be inappropriate for me to choose laws which I wish to apply and which have been validly passed and signed. I will not start now.”
A few days ago, BHSH Health (a merger of Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health) said it would perform abortions “when medically necessary” after initially saying it would follow the 1931 ban.
“At this time, the current legal landscape regarding abortion in our state is unclear and uncertain. We are aware of Michigan’s 1931 law. However, given the uncertainties and confusion surrounding its application, until until there is clarity, we will continue our practice of providing abortions when medically necessary,” BHSH said in a statement last weekend.
It’s unclear whether the state’s largest hospital system will be reluctant to provide abortion services again, given Becker’s position. Spectrum Health is based in Grand Rapids.
The decision to reverse Roe vs. Wade was anticipated by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who filed a preliminary complaint and is still urging the Michigan Supreme Court to decide immediately whether the state constitution protects the right to abortion.
Although the injunction appears to protect doctors from lawsuits, Christopher Lund, a law professor at Wayne State University, said Crain’s company in Detroit the language is not concrete as to whether Becker can undo it.
“If you read the injunction, you see that it goes against ‘all state and local officials acting under the supervision of the defendant,'” Lund said. “So the question is whether the county attorneys act under the supervision of the AG, and I don’t see a perfectly clear answer to that. The AG has some oversight authority over the county attorneys, but county attorneys are independently elected. So maybe the answer is no.”
He continued, “On the other hand, the very fact that the injunction speaks of local officials suggests to me that it was intended to bind not only the AG but also the local prosecutors. So I think the most strong is probably yes. But I don’t think that’s clear.”
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