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Michigan Senate votes to repeal abortion penalties under 1931 ban

abortion rights rally
Michigan’s Democratically controlled Legislature is moving fast to remove a 1931 law banning abortion from the books. (Bridge file photo)
  • Michigan Senate votes to repeal 1931 abortion ban penalties
  • Democrats vote for repeal, all Republicans object
  • Last fall, state voters approved Proposal 3, which enshrined abortion rights into the state constitution

LANSING — Michigan Senate Democrats voted Wednesday to effectively repeal a 1931 abortion ban, calling the move affirmation of a voter-approved amendment to the state constitution that guarantees reproductive rights. 

“Michiganders have spoken, and the most urgent and pertinent part of doing the people’s work to fulfill Prop 3 is repealing the 1931 ban,” said Sen. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, referencing the fall ballot measure approved by 57 percent of voters.

“The people demand it. It is the floor of what we must do, but do it we must.”



Over uniform GOP objections, and in a series of 20-18 votes, the Senate’s new Democratic majority approved legislation that would repeal criminal penalties associated with the 1931 ban.

The House, where Democrats also hold a two-seat majority, approved the legislation last week. The bills are now headed to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for expected signature.

Republicans spoke out against the legislation, largely using the floor debate to lament legal abortion.

"Today, we have the ugly and sad reality of dealing with the tragic flight of our people to call what is repugnant and shocking a fundamental right," said Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan. 

The 1931 law made it a four-year felony to perform abortions, but enforcement was essentially 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 and some Republican county prosecutors considered enforcing Michigan’s 1931 ban before it was suspended amid a separate legal fight. 

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.

But repealing the 1931 ban is still a mistake because it would eliminate “the final barrier to unlimited abortion in Michigan," argued state Sen. Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, calling it “yet another attempt to normalize and marginalize the tragic death of an unborn child.”

Albert and other critics argued the legislation would also repeal criminal penalties for abortion providers who cause the death of a woman during the procedure. 

Geiss, the Democratic senator, noted Michigan has other laws on the books that protect against medical harm of any kind.

"Once again, we had to listen to the forced-birth crew’s greatest hits,” she said. “Let me remind you, a person's reproductive health care decisions, including abortion, is none of your business.”

Michigan ranked fifth among states for abortions, performing nearly 30,000 in 2020 at 27 providers in 13 counties. 

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