In a disappointing development for pro-life conservatives, a Circuit Court judge in Oakland County, Michigan granted a temporary restraining order preventing prosecutors from enforcing a state abortion ban dating back to 1931, doing so almost immediately after the Court of Appeals ruled that violations of that law could indeed be pursued at the county level, as the Detroit News reports.
The order, issued by Judge Jacob Cunningham, came in response to a request from Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that was made as part of ongoing litigation against 13 prosecutors in counties that currently contain abortion clinics.
Earlier on Monday, the Michigan Court of Appeals determined that a previous injunction in a separate case that halted prosecutions of abortion ban violations would not apply to county prosecutors, but only to state-level officials such as the attorney general, something that prompted Democrat fears of a swift crackdown in certain portions of the state on those performing the procedure, as the Washington Examiner noted.
Though prosecutors in some conservative-leaning counties in Michigan were prepared to enforce the decades-old abortion ban, other officials sided with Whitmer and said they had no intention of doing so.
In a joint statement issued in April, prosecutors from Oakland, Ingham, Washtenaw, Genesee, Wayne, Marquette, and Kalamazoo counties stated, “Michigan’s anti-abortion statutes were written and passed in 1931. There were no women serving in the Michigan legislature” and added that they “cannot and will not support criminalizing reproductive freedom.”
Perhaps as a result of the uncertainty that presently surrounds the issue of abortion under Michigan law, Cunningham declared that the temporary restraining order sought by Whitmer was “necessary to prevent the immediate and irreparable injury that will occur if defendants are allowed to prosecute abortion providers under (the 1931 law) without a full resolution of the merits of the pending cases challenging the statute.”
“I am grateful for this relief – however temporary – because it will help ensure that Michigan’s doctors, nurses, and health care systems can continue caring for their patients,” Whitmer said in a statement issued in the aftermath of Cunningham’s ruling.
The governor continued, declaring, “This lack of legal clarity – that took place within the span of a workday – is yet another textbook example of why the Michigan Supreme Court must take up my lawsuit against the 1931 extreme abortion ban as soon as possible.”
As the News reported, the state’s high court has not yet agreed to take up the matter and bypass lower court litigation, but questions have been submitted to Whitmer and amicus briefs are currently being accepted from interested parties. Precisely what the abortion landscape in the Great Lakes State will ultimately look like in the post-Roe era, however, only time will tell.