Motion Filed to Defend Michigan’s 1931 Law Criminalizing Abortion

by Bruce Walker


Motions were filed Monday in the Michigan Court of Appeals to allow abortion opponents to intervene as appellants in the legal battle enforcing the state’s 1931 law outlawing abortion.

The Alliance for Defending Freedom, a Texas-based legal group representing Michigan Right to Life and the Michigan Catholic Conference, asked the court to allow it to defend the 1931 law in the ongoing Planned Parenthood of Michigan v. Attorney General of the State of Michigan.

Alliance contends the case lacks an active adversarial dynamic between Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Planned Parenthood; both parties advocate for legalized abortion.

“Michigan’s elected officials have a duty to uphold and defend the law, especially laws that protect the unborn,” Alliance senior counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch said in a statement. “Attorney General Nessel should be doing everything in her power to uphold existing laws that protect the innocent and vulnerable lives of the unborn. Instead, she continues to attack a law that was rightly enacted by the people of Michigan and has been serving them well for more than 90 years. We urge the court to listen to the voices of those standing up in defense of the unborn – Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference – by allowing them to intervene in this lawsuit.”

The 1931 law was triggered when the U.S. Supreme Court last June overruled the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that effectively legalized abortion in all 50 states. However, both Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Nessel vowed to uphold abortion rights in Michigan by declaring they would not enforce the 1931 law.

The Court of Appeals declared the law unenforceable last May, and Judge Elizabeth Gleicher issued an injunction prohibiting enforcement of the law.  Gleicher was revealed to be a donor to Planned Parenthood and recipient of the organization’s 1998 Advocate Award. The judge also donated to Nessel’s inaugural run as attorney general.

Gleicher, in a nonpartisan elected position, was appointed to the bench by a Democrat, then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Whitmer and Nessel are Democrats.

Because Right to Life and the Catholic Conference are private organizations, they were previously not allowed to intervene in the case, according to the Alliance motion filed Monday. However, they were allowed to file a Friend of the Court brief.

The Court of Claims declared on Sept. 7 the 1931 law could not be enforced by the attorney general or county prosecutors in the state. Alliance contends the ruling “flouts this Court’s precedential decision that ‘there is no right to abortion under the Michigan Constitution,’” which was issued in 1997. Alliance further asserts the Court of Claims maintains no jurisdiction over county prosecutors.

Nessel’s press secretary did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.


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