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Whitmer won’t extradite abortion patients, doctors seeking care in Michigan

whitmer at a press conference
The governor has signed an executive order refusing to extradite those who come to Michigan for abortion care.

Related: 1931 Michigan abortion ban can be enforced by county prosecutors, court rules

LANSING — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Wednesday refusing to extradite abortion patients or providers who come to the state for reproductive care.

“I cannot in good conscience participate in other states’ efforts to make it a crime to exercise a fundamental right or to punish health-care providers,” the executive order states. “A woman’s health, not politics, should guide life-changing medical decisions.”

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The Wednesday move is the latest action by the Democratic governor, who faces re-election in November, to protect abortion rights in Michigan. It follows similar orders issued by Democratic governors in several other states, including North Carolina, Colorado, Rhode Island and Maine, ABC News reported.

Under Michigan law, it is the duty of the governor to extradite those charged with crimes in other states. Whitmer, like her predecessors, has the authority to determine whether to extradite, said Steven Liedel, former legal counsel to former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm. 

Under the Granholm administration, it was a “longstanding policy” to not extradite anyone if they would face death penalty in other states, Liedel said. Michigan governors have also refused to extradite before.

Whitmer’s move comes after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending nearly 50 years of federal protection for abortion. Bans or restrictions on abortion are expected to take effect in roughly half of the states, although such regulations in some states have been challenged in court, The New York Times reported.

Michigan is one of the states with pre-Roe laws criminalizing abortion. The 1931 state law has been challenged in court by Planned Parenthood. Its enforcement has been blocked by a Court of Claims judge who ruled it would cause “irreparable” harm to abortion patients. If the Michigan ban went into effect, abortion providers would face felony charges punishable by up to four years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. 

The Republican-led Legislature on Tuesday asked the injunction to be dismissed. It had asked an appeals court last week to overturn the injunction, arguing the ruling was an “extreme judicial overreach,” The Detroit News reported.

Whitmer has also asked the Michigan Supreme Court repeatedly to confirm abortion care as a constitutional right in the state, although the court has not acted. 

Faced with the uncertainty over the court cases, abortion rights supporters have turned in more than 753,000 signatures — the most in state history — to place an initiative that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution on the November ballot. 

The signatures still must be reviewed by the state Bureau of Elections and certified by the Board of State Canvassers before Sept. 9.

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