Michigan Attorney General won't prosecute abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned


LANSING -- Michigan women and doctors will not be prosecuted for obtaining or providing an abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, Attorney General Dana Nessel said Tuesday.

At an annual Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan summit at Lansing Center, Nessel said the landmark 1973 decision is likely to be overturned thanks to the confirmation of Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Michigan never repealed a 173-year-old law banning abortion, which means abortion would become a felony if the ruling is overturned.

"I will never prosecute a woman, or her doctor, for making the difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy," the Democratic attorney general said.

Michigan attorney general withdraws state from high-profile abortion cases

The law, modernized in 1931, makes it a felony to administer an abortion unless to protect the life of the mother. If the woman dies during the abortion, the doctor who performed it could be convicted of manslaughter.

Nessel acknowledged people will question whether the attorney general can choose to not enforce state laws, but said her predecessor Bill Schuette made the same choice to not enforce environmental regulations.

"I think I can go four or maybe eight years without sending women to be butchered in back alleys," Nessel said.

The GOP-led Michigan Legislature could repeal the existing state law for abortion to remain legal, but Nessel didn't hold out much hope for that option. She encouraged a crowd of activists, educators and state elected officials to fill the state House and Senate, Congress and the White House with pro-choice policymakers.

"If we can not and will not commit to make reproductive freedoms a priority in 2020 then we most certainly will lose them for the remainder of all of our lives and for those of future generations as well," Nessel said.

Now that conservatives have a majority on the Supreme Court, Nessel said, Roe v. Wade's days are numbered.

"When you realistically ask what the future will look like, from a jurisprudence standpoint, the honest answer is not so great," Nessel said.

Nessel celebrated hiring more women in her office after being elected last year and withdrawing the state from several high-profile abortion cases, as well as other national cases regarding job discrimination based on sexual orientation and the separation of church and state.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the mostly-female crowd next, saying she would veto bills outlawing abortions early in pregnancy, specifically naming a law recently passed in Ohio. Last week, Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill making abortions illegal after at the first signs of a fetal heartbeat.

"You've got a powerful backstop in my office," Whitmer said.

Whitmer said she would not have been elected without the support of Planned Parenthood advocates. Attendees held signs reading "Planned Parenthood stands with Whitmer" greeted the governor as she entered the room.

Whitmer celebrated Michigan's support for Democrats in 2018 midterm elections, but cautioned Democrats not to rest on their laurels. She encouraged voters to keep the momentum going for 2020 elections.

Whitmer and Nessel are part of an "amazing badass triumvirate of women" protecting the state of Michigan, said Planned Parenthood Michigan President Lori Carpentier.


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