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Gov. Whitmer signs repeal of Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a press conference surrounded by people clapping
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other Democratic leaders were in a celebratory mood, but indicated the fight was not over. (Bridge photo by Lauren Gibbons)
  • A dormant abortion ban is off the books in Michigan
  • It wasn’t enforced during Roe v. Wade but was in play after the Supreme Court overturned the decision 
  • Michigan voters approved Proposal 3 last year adding reproductive rights to the state constitution 

BIRMINGHAM — Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban is coming off the books.  

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday signed legislation repealing the ban, which made it a felony to perform abortions except in cases of life-threatening pregnancies.


She also signed bills removing abortion sentencing guidelines from the state criminal code and repealing a law making it a misdemeanor to sell or distribute information about “recipes or prescriptions” for contraception and abortion. 


Speaking before a crowd of abortion-rights activists, care providers and Democratic officials in a Birmingham restaurant, Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and lawmakers said the legislation solidifies Michigan’s status as a haven for women to make their own reproductive decisions. 

“Today, we're going to take action to ensure that our statutes, our laws reflect our values and our constitution," Whitmer said prior to signing the bills. 

Enforcement of the 1931 law was essentially prohibited for decades by Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that established a national right to legal abortion. Even after that ruling was overturned last year, the Michigan law wasn’t enforced amid legal battles, and it became moot when voters approved adding abortion rights to the state Constitution last fall.


But Whitmer said the ban was a "threat coming back to haunt us all” if it wasn’t repealed. Gilchrist likened the repeal to “taking out the trash.”

Anti-abortion activists said it was “a dark day” for women and unborn children, arguing the legislation removes criminal penalties for abortion providers who cause injury or death during the procedure and could open the door for unregulated abortion practices.  

“Cloaking the elimination of long-standing, common-sense health and safety protections in the mantra of ‘women’s rights’ demonstrates the extreme nature of the governor’s abortion activism,” Barbara Listing, president of Right to Life of Michigan, said in a statement.

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