Democrat Gov. Whitmer sues to secure abortion rights in Michigan ahead of SCOTUS decision

Whitmer is suing to vacate an abortion ban in her state that dates back 176 years
Image
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in Southfield, Mich., Oct. 16, 2020.
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Michigan Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer filed a lawsuit Thursday to protect abortion rights in her state, requesting that a court recognize a constitutional right to abortion and overturn a 176-year-old ban in the state that could go into effect should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.

The preemptive suit was filled against prosecutors in 13 counties with an abortion clinic. It joins a similar suit filed in the state Court of Claims to block the enforcement of the 1931 law that dates back to an earlier 1846 ban, according to the Associated Press.

Whitmer has requested that the state Supreme Court move quickly rather than allow it to wend through the appellate courts.

If the court rules for Whitmer, abortions would likely be able to continue in Michigan even following a Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade, the landmark, 1973 high court decision that stated the Constitution protects a pregnant woman's liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.

"It was important for us to take action now, to ensure that women and providers across the state of Michigan know whether abortions will still be available in the state because it impacts their lives and our health care providers' practices," Whitmer told the AP.

"It’s crucial that we take this action now to secure and ensure that the Michigan Constitution protects this right that we have had available for 49 years."

Michigan is one of eight states with an abortion ban that was enacted prior to the landmark 1973 decision that is not enforced.

Whitmer is attempting to have the 1931 law struck down and to have the court declare abortion a protected right under the state constitution. The high court in Michigan has four Democrat-appointed justices and three Republican appointees. 

In 1997, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that there is no state constitutional right to abortion. The state Supreme Court has never ruled on whether the state constitution protects such a right.