Kent County prosecutor vows to enforce Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban

Despite injunction declaring abortion still legal in Michigan, Christopher Becker is taking us back 100 years

click to enlarge Kent County Prosecutor Christopher Becker. - Kent County Prosecutor's Office
Kent County Prosecutor's Office
Kent County Prosecutor Christopher Becker.
Doctors who perform abortions in Kent County, which includes Grand Rapids, will face criminal prosecution.

Kent County Prosecutor Christopher Becker has vowed to uphold Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban in a statement released on Monday, following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The news is a bit puzzling as the 1931 law is currently blocked via injunction by a Michigan Court of Claims judge, which makes abortion still legal in the state.

"I do not believe it proper for me to simply ignore a law/any law, that was passed by the Michigan Legislature and signed by the Governor," Becker said in the statement. "I have always held it would be improper for me to pick and choose the laws I wish to enforce that have been validly passed and signed. I will not start now."

Several days ago, BHSH Health (a merger of Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health) said it would perform abortions “when medically necessary” after originally stating it would follow the 1931 ban.

"At present, the current legal landscape regarding abortion in our state is unclear and uncertain. We are aware of the 1931 Michigan law. However, given the uncertainties and confusion surrounding its enforcement, until there is clarity, we will continue our practice of providing abortions when medically necessary," BHSH said in a statement last weekend.

It’s unclear whether the state’s largest hospital system will fip-flop on providing abortion services again, given Becker’s stance. Spectrum Health is based out of Grand Rapids.

The decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was anticipated by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who filed a preliminary lawsuit and is still urging the Michigan Supreme Court to immediately decide whether the state constitution protects abortion rights.

Though the injunction appears to protect doctors from prosecution, Wayne State University professor of law Christopher Lund told Crain’s Detroit Business the language isn’t concrete on whether Becker can overrule it.

"If you read the injunction, you see it runs against 'all state and local officials acting under defendant's supervision,'" Lund said. "So the question is whether county prosecutors are acting under the AG's supervision, and I don't see a perfectly clear answer to that. The AG has some supervisory authority over county prosecutors, but county prosecutors are independently elected. So maybe the answer is no.”

He continued, "on the other hand, the very fact that the injunction talks about local officials at all suggests to me it was meant to bind not only the AG but also local prosecutors. So I think the stronger answer is probably yes. But I don't think it's clear."

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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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