Lower Court Decision Striking Down Abortion Ban Stands

January 07, 2008

WASHINGTON The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to review legal questions raised in a challenge to Michigan’s third attempt at a dangerous and extreme ban on abortion. The American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America said they were pleased that a lower court decision striking down the ban would stand.

“We are hopeful that the Michigan legislature will get the message: stop endangering women’s health and start respecting women’s private health care decisions,” said Brigitte Amiri, a staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

The Michigan legislature passed the abortion ban in 2004, despite federal courts striking down two similar bans in previous years.  In June 1996, the legislature passed its first abortion ban.  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 because it lacked an exception to protect women’s health.

“For the third time, the courts have prevented the Michigan legislature from disregarding the Constitution and banning nearly all abortions in the state,” said Janet Crepps, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Today is an important win for women in Michigan and their fundamental right to decide whether or not to have an abortion.”

In June 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld a federal district court ruling from September 2005 striking down the Legal Birth Definition Act, noting that “the Michigan legislature appears to have cast a wide net that would prohibit virtually all methods of abortions” from the earliest stages of pregnancy.

“Major medical organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, opposed this ban because it threatened women’s health,” said Sarah Scranton, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Michigan.

The petitions before the Supreme Court today asked the Court to review two legal questions: the need for a federal court to ask a state court to interpret a law, and the issue of third-party intervention. 

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. 

Today’s case is Northland Family Planning Clinic v. Cox and Standing Together To Oppose Partial-birth abortion v. Northland Family Planning Clinic, Case Numbers 07-313 and 07-291.  The plaintiffs are represented by Amiri, Talcott Camp and Alexa Kolbi-Molinas of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Michael J. Steinberg and Kary Moss of the ACLU of Michigan; Eve Gartner and Roger Evans of Planned Parenthood Federation of America;  Crepps of the Center for Reproductive Rights; and David Nacht of David A. Nacht, P.C. 

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