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Jackson Co. prosecutor says he'd consider cases against abortion providers despite court order

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Michigan officials are assuring medical providers that they can’t currently be prosecuted for conducting abortions following Friday's overturning of Roe v. Wade.

But some county prosecutors, including Jackson County's Jerry Jarzynka, disagree with that interpretation and say they may charge abortion providers criminally.

A 1931 Michigan law makes it a felony to provide an abortion unless it’s done to save a pregnant person's life.

But that law’s been dormant since 1973 when the U.S. Supreme Court granted a constitutional right to abortion. Friday’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, however, has upended abortion access by leaving legality up to the states.

The issue is further complicated in Michigan because a state Court of Claims judge issued a preliminary injunction in May that temporarily blocks enforcement of the statewide abortion ban.

Despite that order, Jarzynka, a Republican, says county prosecutors could pursue cases against abortion providers because local prosecutors aren’t directly named as parties in the pending case that led to the injunction. Planned Parenthood of Michigan filed that lawsuit against Michigan's Attorney General.

As of Tuesday, Jarzynka said police had yet to present him with any evidence of crimes involving abortion in Jackson County, although he said he would consider prosecuting those cases if they did.

"Of course, it depends on what evidence or facts the police would bring in," he said. "But I can't ignore the law. … It’s a validly passed statute and I’m not going to ignore it.”

Michigan's Attorney Dana Nessel, a Democrat, says it's clear abortion remains legal in Michigan and that providers cannot be prosecuted at present.

"I encourage those with appointments to move forward as scheduled and consult with their doctors,” Nessel said in a statement.

Michigan's Bureau of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which is responsible for licensing health care professionals, sent a notice Monday to medical providers assuring them that abortion is currently legal in Michigan. It also states that LARA won't take regulatory action against health staff for providing "legal abortions" while the injunction is in place.

Sarah Lehr is a politics and civics reporter for WKAR News.
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