Lawsuit Challenges Michigan Law Banning Virtually All Abortions

March 01, 2005

Detroit, MI—The American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America asked a federal court today to strike down a broad abortion ban that would outlaw virtually all abortions in the state and interfere with a doctor’s ability to provide other critical health care services.

“This radical law goes far beyond any other legislation in the country, threatening women’s ability to obtain even a first-trimester abortion and, in some instances, preventing doctors from treating miscarriages,” said Rev. Mark Pawlowski, CEO of Planned Parenthood of South Central Michigan, a plaintiff in the lawsuit.  “It is part of a larger anti-choice agenda that extends beyond abortion to restricting family planning, access to contraception and women’s right to medical privacy.”

 The Michigan law is scheduled to take effect on March 30. The three organizations filed a single suit today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on behalf of reproductive health facilities, obstetrician-gynecologists, and their patients.

According to the lawsuit, the ban not only prevents physicians from performing most abortions, but also denies patients the safest medical care, even in cases when the patient’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.

“Decisions about medical care should be between a woman and her doctor, not legislators,” said Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan Executive Director.  “Imagine a politician sitting in your living room or around the kitchen table playing such an active role in any other area of your life.”

The Michigan legislature passed the abortion ban last year despite two previous failed efforts.  In June 1996, the legislature passed its first such bill.  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.

“The Michigan legislature continues to thumb its nose at women’s health, not to mention the federal Constitution.  The federal courts of this state have twice struck down these dangerous and sweeping abortion bans, yet the legislature continues to ignore that a woman’s constitutional right to choose is a fundamentally protected right,” said Linda Rosenthal, 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 Rosenthal of the Center for Reproductive Rights; David Nacht of David A. Nacht, P.C.; Talcott Camp and Chakshu Patel of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Michael J. Steinberg and Moss of the ACLU of Michigan; and Roger Evans and Donna Lee of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The case has been assigned to Judge Denise Page Hood. However, after review, Judge Hood may determine that the case should be heard by Judge Arthur Tarnow who presided over a substantially-related case filed by the ACLU in 2000. 

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