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Abortion remains legal in Michigan after injunction blocks 1931 law being reinstated


Abortion remains legal in Michigan for the time being. Michigan Judge Jacob Cunningham granted a preliminary injunction, which means a 1931 law that bans abortion and allows providers to be charged with felony remains on hold. It is the latest in a back-and-forth legal argument that abortion rights advocates and opponents say is not over yet. Rick Pluta of the Michigan Public Radio Network has been following the case and joins us.

Rick, thanks for being with us.


SIMON: This quarrel began even before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. And this ruling from Judge Cunningham is kind of the latest installment. How did we get to this point?

PLUTA: Well, we had a couple of court cases. In one, a judge ruled the state of Michigan cannot charge abortion providers under that 1931 state law - not really an issue since Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel says that's not going to happen. But there are Republican prosecutors in several Michigan counties who say they would or might file charges against abortion providers. And they went to court, and Judge Cunningham said no to that. And here's part of the ruling he read from the bench.


JACOB CUNNINGHAM: (Reading) A person carrying a child has the right to bodily autonomy and integrity, as well as a safe doctor-patient relationship, free from government interference as they have been able to do so for nearly 50 years. Weaponizing the criminal law against providers to force pregnancy on our state's women is simply contrary to notions of due process, equal protection and bodily autonomy in this court's eyes.

PLUTA: So Judge Cunningham also said he thinks Governor Gretchen Whitmer will prevail on the issue of whether abortion rights are protected in Michigan.

SIMON: And what's been the reaction to the judge's ruling?

PLUTA: Well, as you'd expect, abortion rights advocates are very pleased. Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian is Michigan's chief medical executive. She was appointed by Governor Whitmer, and she says the ruling will lay to rest some immediate concerns about the status of abortion rights under a law that's not been invoked in Michigan in roughly 50 years. And here's what she told us.

NATASHA BAGDASARIAN: It actually criminalizes anything that induces miscarriage. And I think that this is confusing for both doctors and patients around the state.

SIMON: Rick, it sounds like this - the question isn't really settled with this ruling.

PLUTA: It isn't. First of all, those Republican prosecutors, they say they're not giving up.

David Kallman is their attorney and has made it clear that Judge Cunningham's decision is not the end.

DAVID KALLMAN: OK, well, he made his ruling and we'll take it up and see what the higher courts think.

PLUTA: So the next stop will be the Michigan Court of Appeals. And the deadline to file a challenge is 21 days.

SIMON: And I understand there's a petition drive underway to amend the state's constitution. How does that figure into this?

PLUTA: Yeah. This petition campaign has submitted roughly 750,000 signatures to get a question on the ballot. It should easily qualify. The group wants to add a reproductive rights amendment to the state constitution. And if they're successful, well, this all might get settled on election day.

SIMON: And where does Governor Whitmer stand in all this?

PLUTA: Well, she has a formal request into the Michigan Supreme Court asking it to step over lower courts, take over this case and declare abortion rights are protected under the Michigan constitution, regardless of the fate of a ballot question.

SIMON: Rick Pluta, senior political correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network.

Rick, thanks so much.

PLUTA: My pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF JACK WILKINS' "RED CLAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.