Groups Ask Court to Block Michigan's Abortion Ban

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
June 14, 2005 12:00 am

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Leading Reproductive Health and Rights Groups Say Michigan Law Would Prohibit Virtually All Abortions in the State

DETROIT, MI — The American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America asked a federal court today to block a broad and dangerous abortion ban Besides not providing an adequate exception to protect women’s health, the ban goes farther than any other state or federal law by prohibiting even first-trimester abortions.

“This ban would make it virtually impossible for women to obtain an abortion in Michigan,” said Kary Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan. “The courts have already struck down two broad and dangerous bans; this ban is even broader. The third time is not the charm.”

On March 1, the three groups filed a challenge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on behalf of reproductive health facilities, obstetrician-gynecologists and their patients. The law, which was scheduled to take effect on March 30, has been enjoined since March 14, 2005. According to legal papers filed earlier this year by the plaintiffs, the ban not only prevents physicians from performing most abortions, but also denies patients the safest medical care, even in cases when a woman’s life or health is in danger. For example, a doctor would be unable to provide a woman with an abortion even if she suffers from diabetes or cardiac ailments and needs an abortion to protect her health.

“Proponents of this ban don’t care about women; they care about eliminating safe, legal abortion,” said Rev. Mark Pawlowski, CEO of Planned Parenthood of South Central Michigan, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “This law dangerously interferes with medical practice and, in some instances, prevents doctors from treating miscarriages.”

The Michigan legislature passed this most recent ban in June 2004 despite two previous failed efforts. In June 1996, the legislature passed its first such law. A year later, a federal judge declared that ban unconstitutional because it was vague and overbroad. Similarly, in 2001, a federal judge struck down a second ban for failing to include an exception to protect women’s health.

“This law speaks volumes about the agenda of the Michigan legislature and anti-choice forces in the state. These dangerous bans have not only been struck down twice in Michigan, but federal courts across the country-including the Supreme Court-have declared them unconstitutional because they not only fail to protect women’s health, they unashamedly endanger it,” said Simon Heller, a staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights and one of the attorneys in the case. Major medical organizations, including the Michigan State Medical Society, oppose the ban because it endangers women’s health.

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