ACLU, Planned Parenthood Challenge Michigan Law Criminalizing Abortion and Other Medical Procedures

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
February 1, 2000 12:00 am

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DETROIT, MI — Seeking to block a second attempt by Michigan lawmakers to interfere with important medical decisions, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union today filed a legal challenge to a restrictive new law that endangers women’s reproductive health.

The so-called “Infant Protection Act,” scheduled to go into effect on March 10, 2000, would prohibit abortions at any stage of pregnancy and impose severe criminal penalties on physicians providing abortions as well as other medical procedures. Penalties include imprisonment up to life or fines of up to $50,000.

“Once again, lawmakers have drastically overstepped their bounds in passing a law that intrudes on decisions that belong to doctors and their patients,” said Kary Moss, Executive Director of American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. “The law endangers women’s health. Under this legislation, a physician can only act to save a pregnant woman’s life. If her health is endangered by a pregnancy or even by a miscarriage, a physician cannot practice sound medicine without being subject to criminal sanctions.”

Moreover, Moss said that the law is written so broadly that it interferes with a woman’s decision to end her pregnancy even in the first-trimester, clearly violating the right to privacy and due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The “Infant Protection Act” is the most recent attempt by the state to ban abortion. In 1997, a federal judge struck down a so-called “partial-birth abortion” ban because it was vague and posed an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose. Though the current legislation uses completely different language–and does not even refer to abortion–it is equally unconstitutional. It interferes with a woman’s right to abortion; it endangers women in need of other medical care, including completion of a miscarriage; and it does not exempt doctors from prosecution when they act to protect a pregnant woman’s health.

The United States Supreme Court has consistently recognized the right of a woman to decide whether or not to end a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, and the right of doctors to practice medicine without fear of prosecution to save a pregnant woman’s health as well as her life. “The Michigan law flies in the face of these long-standing precedents,” said Talcott Camp, an attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project and co-counsel on the case.

The lawsuit was filed in federal district court on behalf of Dr. Mark Evans, a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Wayne State University/Hutzel Hospital in Detroit, where he also serves as professor of molecular medicine and genetics, and professor of pathology; Dr. Timothy Johnson, the Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Michigan Medical School; and Planned Parenthood of Mid-Michigan, Planned Parenthood of Southeast Michigan, Planned Parenthood of South Central Michigan, and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Michigan. Defendants in the case are Attorney General Jennifer Granholm and Wayne County Prosecutor John D. O’Hair in the United States District Court in Detroit.

The plaintiffs are represented by Eve Gartner, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Talcott Camp and Louise Melling from the ACLU’s national Reproductive Freedom Project; Kary Moss and Michael Steinberg of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan; and Heidi Salter-Ferris and Don Ferris, cooperating co-counsel for the ACLU of Michigan.

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