Michigan attorney general addresses SCOTUS ruling, implications for state

By: Sarah Wojcik | C&G Newspapers | Published June 29, 2022

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MICHIGAN — In a virtual press conference hours after the Supreme Court of the United States struck down Roe v. Wade in a 6-3 vote, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel took questions from members of the press June 24.

“Obviously, we knew this was coming. It’s not a surprise to anyone,” Nessel said. “It still feels very unnerving because now this is a final opinion and before there was still the opportunity that things could change.”

The decision summarily overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that affirmed the constitutional right to abortion; however, Nessel said the state’s 1931 law banning abortion, including in cases of rape or incest, will not immediately go back into effect due to a preliminary injunction put in place by Michigan 2nd District Court of Appeals Judge Elizabeth Gleicher in May.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also sued to block the law from going into effect, and Nessel filed an amicus brief in support of the suit.

“The preliminary injunction remains in place. That means in all 83 counties (in Michigan), abortion remains legal as of now,” Nessel said. “But if we learned anything, it’s that the holdings of any court are tenuous in nature and it’s up to the voters to codify these rights into law themselves and not to count on a court to do it for you.”

She added that she and Whitmer will do “everything and anything within our executive authority” to “protect the reproductive rights of the people of the state of Michigan,” including not seeking to discipline, suspend or revoke the license of any medical professional “who is properly trained in performing abortions or prescribing abortion medication and then who proceeds to do that.”

“I have chosen not to enforce law I know will impact the health, welfare and safety of the 2.2 million women of reproductive age that call Michigan home,” Nessel said. “I will not place their lives in jeopardy.”

She said she is concerned that the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which she termed a “building block” case to the right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, would lead to the reversal of other rulings, such as access to contraception, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage..

“These are really important holdings. They affect everyone in our state,” Nessel said. “I think you do have to be very worried now.”

She said the state’s 1931 law does not provide exceptions for rape, incest, medical emergencies, or in the event of a fetus with abnormalities such that it could not survive outside the womb.

“There is an exception to save the life of the woman, but we’ve never seen that defined anywhere,” Nessel said.

On June 24, Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter issued a statement in response to the SCOTUS ruling to overturn the right to an abortion: “This devastating decision is an assault on the constitutional rights of women. I cannot fathom a time in our country when women do not have freedom over such a very personal medical decision and I stand ready to do everything in my power to protect this right in Michigan and Oakland County.”

Kevin Rinke, a conservative Oakland County businessman and gubernatorial candidate, also issued a statement on the decision: “The Supreme Court acted appropriately by letting the people of Michigan make their own decision. I have always believed this should be a state’s rights issue. Even Justice Ruth Bader (Ginsburg) was openly critical of how the Court handled the decision decades ago. As governor, I will ensure that Michigan is a state that respects the sanctity of life.”