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Michigan prosecutors file supplemental brief in support of Gov. Whitmer’s abortion lawsuit

Michigan Hall of Justice.
Michigan Hall of Justice.

Seven county prosecutors in Michigan have filed a supplemental briefin the Michigan Supreme Court supporting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's lawsuit aimed at protecting abortion rights should Roe v. Wade be overturned.

The seven democratic prosecutors are among those being sued by Whitmer in an effort to overturn the state’s 1931 ban criminalizing abortion. Whitmer argues abortion rights are protected by the Michigan Constitution.

The brief filed Wednesday further outlines the urgency for the Michigan Supreme court to hear the lawsuit, as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision on Roe V. Wade by the end of June. Last month, a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked.

Jill Habig is the founder of the nonprofit Public Rights Project, which is representing some of the prosecutors. She said though several prosecutors have stated they won’t enforce the ban, it’s not enough.

“Even if prosecutors commit to not prosecute, police could still arrest someone for seeking an abortion and they could still be in jail for up to 48 hours while a prosecutor decides whether to take the case,” she said.

She said medical providers and clinics would be in precarious positions if, under state law, they are considered to be committing crimes in terms of the healthcare they are providing.

The Michigan Court of Claims has granted a preliminary injunction halting the enforcement of the state’s abortion ban while a separate lawsuit between Planned Parenthood and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in ongoing.

While the injunction is a welcome action for supporters of abortion rights in the state, Habig noted it's only a temporary fix.

Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon is named in Whitmer's lawsuit and is one of the prosecutors that filed the supplemental brief. She has stated she would not prosecute based on the 1931 ban.

"Then there's also the legal issue of whether or not an injunction against the attorney general would bind prosecutors ... across the state because we're not under the authority or supervision of the attorney general, so it's a little ambiguous," Siemon said.

Gov. Whitmer is using her special authority to persuade the Michigan Supreme Court to hear the lawsuit as soon as possible but the window of opportunity to have the court settle the matter is closing.

“It would be very likely that if Roe v. Wade is overturned without us having something in place there would be irreparable harm,” Siemon said.

Melorie Begay is WKAR-FM's weekend host and a general assignment reporter.
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