Michigan Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerGovernors brace for 2022 after year in pandemic spotlight Protesters crash former Detroit police chief's gubernatorial announcement event Former Detroit police chief launching gubernatorial campaign vs. Whitmer next week MORE (D) called on the state legislature on Tuesday to repeal a decades-old state law that criminalizes abortion, which could go into effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
The governor urged the Michigan legislature to abolish the state law that dates back to 1931 to ensure that women maintain the right to abortion, as reproductive rights rights activists panic that the nearly 50-year-old precedent in Roe v. Wade could be in jeopardy. Michigan’s abortion law has not been enforced because of the 1973 Supreme Court decision.
Whitmer‘s request comes after the Supreme Court declined to block Texas’s “fetal heartbeat” law from going into effect and as the court is also slated to hear arguments for a case involving a Mississippi abortion ban next term.
The governor called the Texas legislation “a gross violation of the constitutional right to choose.”
“If the court’s decision in the Texas case is any indication, a majority of justices are willing to throw out the constitutional right to choose that has been in place for 48 years and repeatedly upheld for decades,” the governor said in a press release.
Whitmer declared her support for state Sen. Erika Geiss’s (D) bill that would end the 1931 law and called on state lawmakers to send it to her desk.
“Repealing the law would ensure that the right to choose, which is supported by a significant majority of Michiganders, remains a right in Michigan, even in the face of continued, relentless attacks on Roe v. Wade,” she said.
The Center for Reproductive Rights predicted that if Roe v. Wade is “weakened” or “overturned,” Michigan state legislators “will likely try to prohibit abortion.” The state courts have not yet ruled on whether the state constitution protects abortion rights.
“If Roe v. Wade is limited or overturned, it is likely that Michigan will attempt to enforce its pre-Roe ban, prohibiting abortion with only a life-endangerment exception,” the center said in a report.
Several states have passed also so-called trigger laws in recent years, which would automatically ban abortions in those states if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Whitmer’s push to protect abortion rights in Michigan also comes ahead of the state’s 2022 gubernatorial race during an election year when abortion is expected to be a front and center issue.
Concerns have mounted over Roe v. Wade’s future after the conservative-majority Supreme Court narrowly ruled 5-4 to allow Texas’s six-week abortion ban to go into effect.
The Texas law prohibits abortions after the fetus’s cardiac activity is detected, which can happen as early as six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. But the legislation allows for private citizens rather than state authorities to enforce the ban and earn at least $10,000 for successful lawsuits.
The unique legislation has captured the attention of other anti-abortion politicians in the U.S., as some consider implementing the same law in their states.
The Supreme Court is also expected to rule on the Mississippi case that directly challenges Roe v. Wade by next summer, only months ahead of the 2022 elections.