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Michigan Judge Blocks Law Requiring 24-Hour Wait Before Abortion

The judge cited a 2022 ballot initiative that she said “dramatically” altered how abortion could be regulated.

Demonstrators hold signs as they protest during a rally for reproductive freedom and voting rights on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on October 3, 2022.

A judge in Michigan has placed a statewide injunction on laws regulating abortion access, including one that required residents to wait 24 hours before being able to have the procedure.

Court of Claims Judge Sima Patel issued the order on Tuesday, writing in a 50-page opinion that the provisions regulating abortion violated a voter initiative that created a new constitutional standard in 2022. The case doesn’t block the laws permanently, although Patel stated in her order that the plaintiffs — a number of family planning centers in the state and a medical students group — were likely to succeed in doing so in the future.

The amendment measure that passed in 2022 establishes and defines reproductive freedom as “the right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy, including but not limited to prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care.” It also states that “an individual’s right to reproductive freedom shall not be denied, burdened, nor infringed upon unless justified by a compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive means.”

The measure passed with nearly 57 percent of voters approving it.

Patel stated in her ruling that the amendment “dramatically” altered protections for abortion rights. Specifically on the 24-hour waiting period, which the state of Michigan had required all patients seeking an abortion to abide by, the stipulation “exacerbates the burdens that patients experience seeking abortion care, including by increasing costs, prolonging wait times, increasing the risk that a patient will have to disclose their decision to others, and potentially preventing a patient from having the type of abortion that they prefer,” Patel wrote.

The judge also blocked the state’s informed consent counseling law and placed an injunction on a ban against nurse practitioners, certified midwives and physician assistants performing abortions. The ban on those individuals “excludes qualified clinicians from providing abortion care without any medical justification,” Patel said.

Abortion rights advocates praised the order.

“Michigan voters made it clear that access to abortion is a fundamental right in their state and must be free from ideological interference,” said Rabia Muqaddam, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit against the state.

“My entire career, I have been forced to make patients wait for an arbitrary amount of time dictated by politicians before providing them with the medical care they need,” said Sarah Wallet, chief medical operating officer for Planned Parenthood of Michigan. “For the first time ever tomorrow, I will be able to provide my patients care based on evidence-based practice, clinical standards and the desires of my patients.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Michigan) also expressed support for the ruling.

“The 24-hour waiting period has no basis in science,” Whitmer said, deriding it as “a political roadblock put in place to shame and inconvenience” individuals seeking abortion services.

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