Groups Ask Court to Block Abortion Ban

June 14, 2005

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 Michigan ban on abortion. 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.

“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.”

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.

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

The Michigan legislature passed this most recente 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.

The plaintiffs in the case are Northland Family Planning Clinic, Inc., Summit Medical Center, Planned Parenthood Mid-Michigan Alliance, Planned Parenthood of South Central Michigan, and a group of individual physicians. The plaintiffs are represented by Heller of the Center for Reproductive Rights; David Nacht of David A. Nacht, P.C.; Talcott Camp and Brigitte Amiri of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Michael J. Steinberg and Moss of the ACLU of Michigan; and Roger Evans and Eve Gartner of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

To read the Temporary Restraining Order, go to: http://aclumich.org/sites/default/files/file/attachments/abortionbantro.pdf

To read the Reply Brief and Motion to Dismiss, go to:  http://aclumich.org/sites/default/files/file/pdf/briefs/legalbirthdefactreplybrief.pdf

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