Gretchen Whitmer Sues to Block Michigan “Trigger” Law That Would Ban Abortion

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has filed a lawsuit directly to the state Supreme Court, arguing that an abortion “trigger law,” which would go into effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned, violates the state’s constitution.

A 1931 law banning nearly all abortions in Michigan would automatically go into effect should the U.S. Supreme Court decide later this year to dismantle the 1973 ruling establishing abortion protections. In December, lawyers representing Mississippi lawmakers argued in favor of overturning Roe during oral arguments over the state’s 15-week abortion ban.

In response, the conservative-majority justices on the Supreme Court have indicated a willingness to undo or at least significantly undermine the protections recognized in Roe.

The Michigan law is still technically on the books, but it has been unenforceable since Roe went into effect. If the law is re-enforced, it would ban abortions in the state at all stages of pregnancy, including in cases of rape or incest, and would only allow the procedure if a pregnant person’s life is at risk.

Whitmer filed her lawsuit in the Oakland County Circuit Court — but using powers she has as a governor, she advanced the litigation directly to the state Supreme Court for consideration.

According to reporting from The Detroit News, Whitmer’s lawsuit claims that the 1931 law is “unconstitutionally vague” and violates rights to “privacy, liberty, bodily integrity, and equal protection” under the state constitution and other statutes.

“No matter what happens to Roe, I am going to fight like hell and use all the tools I have as governor to ensure reproductive freedom is a right for all women in Michigan,” Whitmer said in a statement. “If the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to protect the constitutional right to an abortion, the Michigan Supreme Court should step in.”

Whitmer also explained the reason for her lawsuit on social media.

“If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, Michiganders could be forced to live under a dangerous 1931 state law that criminalizes abortion. Not on my watch,” she said.

Requests to expedite lawsuits straight to the state Supreme Court are rare and seldom granted. Just this past week, for example, the court refused an expedited appeal from state Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) to hear a case on regulations relating to the pandemic.

Still, the chances of the appeal aren’t impossible — and as the court currently has a 4-3 majority of Democratic-appointed justices, it may be receptive to hearing Whitmer’s lawsuit.

A number of anti-abortion lawmakers across the U.S., particularly in conservative-leaning Republican-controlled states, have passed and enacted restrictive bills and abortion bans. But several states have also seen pro-abortion lawmakers pressing for added protections, in anticipation of the possibility that Roe gets overturned.

On Monday, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed into law a bill that codified abortion rights and protections. “In the State of Colorado, the serious decision to start or end a pregnancy with medical assistance will remain between a person, their doctor, and their faith,” Polis said in a statement.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in California have been pushing to make the state a “sanctuary” for anyone seeking an abortion — not just in California, but throughout the entire U.S.

Within the state legislature, the Legislative Women’s Caucus has introduced eight bills to protect the right to get an abortion — including a bill that seeks to enhance privacy statutes, ensuring that those who are traveling from out of state cannot be punished for getting an abortion in California.