Roe Is Not Enough: End Michigan's 24-Hour Waiting Period For Abortion


by Jon King, Michigan Advance
February 12, 2024

Saying three long-established state abortion regulations, including a 24-hour waiting period, “run roughshod” over Michigan’s constitutionally-guaranteed right to an abortion, a reproductive rights organization has filed suit against the state.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit last week in the Michigan Court of Claims on behalf of Northland Family Planning Centers and Medical Students for Choice, alleging the regulations violate the 2022 passage of a ballot proposal that enshrined the right to an abortion in Michigan’s constitution.

Proposal 3, also called the Reproductive Freedom for All (RFFA) amendment by organizers, struck the 1931 ban on abortions from Michigan law and created additional protections for people seeking reproductive health care.

However, the lawsuit claims the laws in question “violate the RFFA by imposing medically unjustified restrictions on abortion, singling out abortion care for uniquely onerous treatment, and discriminating against Michiganders who already face health inequities, including Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC), low-income communities, and people in rural areas of the state.”

The three laws targeted by the lawsuit are defined in a pair of statutes; MCL 333.17015 and MCL 333.17015a and include; a required 24-hour waiting period before someone can receive an abortion, the required distribution of certain information to patients before an abortion, and the prohibition of advanced practice clinicians to perform abortions.

Northland-Family-Planning-Center-v-Michigan

 

Filed against Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel, Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs acting Director Marlon Brown and Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel, the suit says Michiganders do not need “boiler-plate ideological materials” or “a forced delay” in order to make health care decisions.

“Through the RFFA, Michigan voters overwhelmingly declared that they will not tolerate paternalistic and medically baseless restrictions on abortion like those we are challenging in this case,” said Rabia Muqaddam, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “With this lawsuit, we hope to eliminate these harmful restrictions and ensure the state’s laws reflect the will of Michigan voters.”

Nessel’s office was asked by the Michigan Advance to comment on the lawsuit, as it will be tasked with defending the state in court, but it has not yet responded. 

In 2022, following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs. Wade, triggering Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban statute to go into effect, Nessel said her office would not defend the statute, which criminalized abortion. Whether she will do the same here is unclear.

Nessel recently filed a motion asking a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit filed last November by Right to Life of Michigan and other plaintiffs, which seeks to overturn the RFFA because it provides what was termed a “super-right” to reproductive freedom.

“At no time in our nation’s history has such a super-right, immune from all legislative action, ever been created by a  popular vote outside of the checks and balances of a republican form of government,” said the lawsuit.

Nessel, noting Proposal 3’s passage by 57% of Michigan voters, previously told the Advance that the plaintiffs in that case “seek to undermine the will of Michigan voters, whose overwhelming support for Proposition 3 in the wake of Roe being overturned ensured that the people of our state are guaranteed agency over their own personal medical decisions.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel attends Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s fifth State of the State address on Jan. 25, 2023. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

The Advance also asked Right to Life of Michigan to comment on the Center for Reproductive Rights lawsuit.

Genevieve Marnon, the legislative director for Right to Life of Michigan said the suit shows a lack of regard for women’s rights.

“The abortion industry, with the help of Governor Whitmer, is dead set on systematically stripping away protections for women who are seeking an abortion. Women should be very concerned. Don’t let anyone tell you they are doing this to fulfill the will of Michigan voters and somehow tie this to Proposal 3 – that is a fallacy,” she said. “Governor Whitmer and Democrats in our state legislature just removed basic health and safety protections from clinics that do abortions.”

However, Renee Chelian, executive director of Northland Family Planning Centers, disputed that contention.

“Every day, and especially since Roe was overturned, our providers and clinic staff work tirelessly to meet the needs of both Michigan residents and out-of-state patients,” she said. “Despite our win with Proposal 3, patients continue to face onerous barriers to care imposed by Michigan law. These barriers should not exist under the RFFA.”

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan J. Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.





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