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Michigan Democrats move to strike abortion ban references from state law

abortion rights protest
Michigan Democrats are rolling out additional state-level abortion protections, following voter approval of Proposal 3 last year to enshrine reproductive rights into the state constitution. (Bridge file photo)
  • Legislative Democrats introduce more bills to remove abortion bans from books 
  • ‘A number of laws that are on the books right now’ will be repealed, Attorney General Dana Nessel said Thursday 
  • Democrats haven’t said whether they’ll seek changes to other existing abortion regulations

LANSING — The passage of Proposal 3 in November may have made abortion a constitutional right in Michigan, but state Democrats say work remains to strip existing bans from the books. 

Legislation to repeal a now-unenforceable 1931 law that made abortion a felony except in life-threatening pregnancies were among the first bills introduced in both the House and Senate, and Democratic leadership in both chambers have said rooting out additional abortion restrictions is a top priority. 

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The latest bills in the effort, introduced this week by Reps. Felicia Brabec, D-Pittsfield, and Stephanie Young, D-Detroit, would remove the felony abortion law from the Michigan Corrections Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure.

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“Michigan’s laws must reflect the will of the people today,” Brabec said in a Thursday statement. “We need to eliminate unenforceable laws that are no longer relevant in our state.”

Lawmakers are seeking input from staff researchers and advocacy groups like Planned Parenthood of Michigan and American Civil Liberties Union Michigan to identify any laws that contradict with the constitutional amendment, Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, recently told Bridge.

Attorney General Dana Nessel, during a media call hosted by the Democratic Attorneys General Association Thursday, predicted that “we're going to see a number of laws that are on the books right now be repealed” now that Democrats control the Legislature.

“This is a battle that has to be fought — but can be won — in the states,” Nessel said. “Michigan is a shining example of people taking their medical decisions and their rights into their own hands.”

Abortion rights became a defining issue in Michigan’s 2022 elections after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had legalized abortion procedures nationwide for nearly 50 years, and determined the decision should be left to states.

With the passage of Proposal 3, voters determined abortion procedures were a constitutional right in Michigan, and Democrats won all three statewide offices and a narrow majority in both chambers of the Legislature. 

Nessel said Michigan has become a “reproductive rights sanctuary” in the Midwest and said she and other Democratic attorneys general will “do anything we can, wherever it is legally appropriate to do so, to be supportive of reproductive rights” around the country.

As of Jan. 6, 34 cases challenging abortion bans in 19 states have been filed, 27 of which are pending, according to the Brennan Center for Justice and Center for Reproductive Rights.

In Ohio, courts have suspended the state’s law banning abortions after a fetal cardiac activity is detected — about six weeks —  but Republican Attorney General Dave Yost is challenging that injunction. Abortion rights advocates are mulling constitutional amendments.

In Indiana, the state Supreme Court on Thursday heard arguments about a law banning most abortions there. An injunction currently prevents enforcement of the law, that outlaws the procedure except in cases of rape, incest or life-threatening pregnancies. 

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In addition to the 1931 ban, Michigan has other laws on the books regulating abortion procedures, including limitations on insurance coverage for abortion, a 24-hour waiting period between an initial consultation and the procedure, specific standards for abortion providers and parental consent requirements for minors seeking abortions.

During the 2022 election, opponents claimed Proposal 3’s passage would invalidate up to 41 state laws regulating abortion. Proposal 3 proponents argued the proposal would only invalidate the 1931 abortion ban, and neutral legal experts predicted state laws regarding abortion will remain on the books unless changed by state lawmakers or challenged in court.

Beyond repealing existing laws explicitly criminalizing abortion, legislative Democrats in Michigan haven’t yet said whether they’ll attempt to change other existing abortion regulations. 

Anti-abortion advocates that fought Proposal 3 on the campaign trail previously told Bridge they’ll keep close watch on efforts to overturn existing state regulations.

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