Judge grants restraining order from Gov. Whitmer to block prosecutors from enforcing abortion ban

Whitmer filed the temporary measure Monday night following the Michigan Court of Appeals ruling allowing criminal charges for abortion providers

click to enlarge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. - State of Michigan
State of Michigan
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Michigan prosecutors are once again barred from charging doctors or health workers for performing abortions. An Oakland Country judge granted a temporary restraining order filed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer blocking prosecutors from enforcing the state’s 1931 abortion ban Monday night.

The order follows a ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals on Monday morning that allowed prosecutors to charge abortion providers despite an earlier injunction blocking the law.

It’s unclear how long the restraining order will remain in effect. A court filing from Circuit Judge Jacob Cunningham states county prosecutors must refrain from enforcing the 1931 ban “until further order of the court.”

Whitmer said in a statement that the measure, however temporary, will help ensure Michigan doctors, nurses, and health care systems can continue caring for their patients.

“Earlier, a decision from the Michigan Court of Appeals cleared a path for county prosecutors to use Michigan’s extreme 1931 abortion ban to prosecute doctors and nurses and jail them for doing their jobs,” Whitmer said. “I immediately filed for a temporary restraining order, and I am proud that the Oakland Circuit Court has approved my request.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office also supported the filing.

“The legal fight in Michigan continues and this temporary restraining order ensures prosecutors cannot target women or providers in the short-term,” Nessel said. “Women should feel comfortable to move forward with their planned medical procedures and providers in those counties should feel confident to practice medicine free from the threat of prosecution while my department continues to pursue all legal options available to ensure reproductive healthcare in our state.”

The fight to secure abortion and reproductive rights in Michigan started before the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson overturned the nearly 50-year precedent set by Roe v. Wade.

In anticipation of the landmark case's reversal, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit asking a judge to declare that the Michigan Constitution guarantees the right to an abortion and the 1931 abortion law is unconstitutional.

A temporary injunction was granted in that case by Judge Elizabeth Gleicher, effectively keeping abortion legal in the state until Monday’s Court of Appeals decision ruled the injunction did not apply to county prosecutors.

Whitmer's statement noted how confusing the back-and-forth legal battle has been.

“This lack of legal clarity — that took place within the span of a workday — is yet another textbook example of why the Michigan Supreme Court must take up my lawsuit against the 1931 extreme abortion ban as soon as possible,” she said. “Michigan’s, doctors, nurses, and health care systems cannot afford to wait any longer. I will keep fighting like hell to protect women and health care providers.”

As the saga continues, seven Michigan prosecutors have reaffirmed their prior decision not to enforce the extreme abortion law stating they “cannot and will not support criminalizing reproductive freedom or creating unsafe, untenable situations for health care providers and those who seek abortions in our communities.”

The group includes Oakland Country Prosecutor Karen D. McDonald, Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeffrey S. Getting, Ingham County Prosecutor Carol A. Siemon, Marquette County Prosecutor Matthew J. Wiese, Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy.

“We have supported Governor Whitmer’s litigation efforts to guarantee the right to reproductive freedom. And we will continue to fight, in court, to protect the right to safe and legal abortion in Michigan,” a joint statement reads. “In the interim, however, we reiterate that we will not use our offices’ scarce resources to prosecute the exercise of reproductive freedom. Instead, as these issues continue to play out in court, we will remain focused on the prosecution of serious crimes.”

A hearing to further discuss the temporary restraining order is scheduled for Wednesday.

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About The Author

Randiah Camille Green

After living in Japan and traveling across Asia, Randiah Camille Green realized Detroit will always be home. And when she says Detroit, she's talking about the hood, not the suburbs. She has bylines in Planet Detroit News , Bridge Detroit , BLAC magazine, and Model D . Her favorite pastimes are meditating...
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