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Michigan Democrats begin repeal of 1931 abortion ban

abortion rights rally in lansing
The passage of Proposal 3 in November guaranteed reproductive freedoms into the Michigan Constitution, but an archaic law still remains criminalizing abortion in the state. (Dale Young/Bridge Michigan)
  • Michigan committees vote to repeal 1931 abortion ban
  • Repeal effort follows voter approval of abortion rights proposal
  • Some foes fear repeal could open door to late-term abortions

LANSING — Michigan's Democratic-led Legislature on Wednesday began the process of formally repealing a 1931 abortion ban they argue is clearly unconstitutional because of last fall’s voter approval of Proposal 3. 

In a series of party-line votes opposed by Republicans, the Senate Health Policy Committee and House Judiciary Committee advanced bills to wipe the law from the books by repealing related penalties for abortion providers and medications.


The bills now head to the full House and Senate for floor votes, moving Michigan "one step closer to getting this archaic, criminal ban off our books," sponsoring Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, D-Livonia, said after the committee action.


The 1931 law made it a four-year felony to perform abortions, but enforcement was largely prohibited for decades by Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that established a national right to legal abortion. 

That legal status changed in June, when the conservative court overturned Roe.

Some Republican prosecutors then considered enforcing Michigan’s 1931 ban, but it was temporarily suspended amid legal challenges from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Planned Parenthood of Michigan. 

Michigan voters effectively ended the state debate over legal abortion in November by approving Proposal 3 by 14 percentage points. The sweeping measure added broad reproductive rights to the Michigan Constitution. 

"The people of Michigan made it crystal clear that they want abortion to remain safe and accessible here," Pohutsky said in committee testimony. 

Proposal 3 still allows the state to regulate abortion after the point of fetal viability, and the 1931 law is the only statute left to prohibit “extreme late-term abortions,” argued Genevieve Marnon of Right to Life of Michigan.

Repealing the 1931 law and its companion statutes without creating a replacement to specifically outlaw late-stage abortions would be “irresponsible,” Marnon told lawmakers. 

“Please, don’t repeal the laws,” she said.

Republicans who opposed the legislation in committee had offered a series of amendments to clarify some of the outstanding questions about abortion laws in the wake of Proposal 3’s passage. 


Democrats rejected those proposals, however, including one measure that would have reinforced an existing law requiring parental consent or a court order for a minor to obtain an abortion. 

Abortion is “health care,” and the 1931 ban should have been repealed “decades ago,” said Dr. Sarah Wallett, an abortion provider and chief medical operating officer for Planned Parenthood of Michigan.

“It's terrifying to know that a nearly century-old ban remains on Michigan's law books, threatening to label me a felon,” Wallett told lawmakers in committee testimony, urging action. 

“I should not have to fear being arrested, separated from my family stripped of my medical license and barred from practicing medicine simply for providing the care my patients depend on.”

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