Federal Court Strikes Down Michigan Ban on Safe Abortion Procedures

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
April 26, 2001 12:00 am

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DETROIT – For the second time in four years, a federal court struck down a Michigan ban on safe abortion procedures, saying the law endangered women’s health, the American Civil Liberties Union announced today.

“”We are gratified that once again the court recognized that prohibiting doctors from performing safe and common abortion procedures will harm Michigan women,”” said Talcott Camp, a staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and a lawyer in the case. “”In today’s decision, the court made it clear that lawmakers should not interfere with physicians’ ability to provide the best care possible for their patients.””

The so-called Infant Protection Act would have prohibited abortions at any stage of pregnancy and imposed severe criminal penalties on physicians providing abortions as well as other medical procedures, including treatment for miscarriage. Under this law, physicians faced imprisonment up to life or fines up to $50,000.

Judge Arthur Tarnow of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan invalidated the law because it failed to include an exception to protect women’s health, noting that “”[a]ny law restricting a woman’s right to choose a previability abortion must contain an adequate safeguard to protect the life and health of the pregnant woman.””

The Michigan law is the most recent attempt by the state to ban abortion. In 1997, a federal judge struck down a so-called partial-birth abortion ban because it was vague and posed an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose.

“”After two attempts at banning safe abortion procedures, at taxpayer expense, I hope the Michigan legislature will now give up,”” said Kary Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan. “”The legislature should not be determining what is the best medical treatment for any given woman. Such decisions should be made by a woman in consultation with her doctor.””

Today’s decision follows the precedent established by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Stenberg v. Carhart, a case invalidating Nebraska’s so-called partial-birth abortion ban. In that case, the Court held that the ban prohibited the safest and most common procedures used after the first trimester of pregnancy and impermissibly endangered women’s health.

Today’s case is WomanCare of Southfield v. Granholm, No. 00-CV-70585 consolidated with Evans v. Granholm, No. 00-CV-70586. Lawyers in Evans v. Granholm include Camp and Louise Melling from the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Eve Gartner, Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Michael Steinberg of the ACLU of Michigan; and Heidi Salter-Ferris and Don Ferris, cooperating co-counsel for the ACLU of Michigan.

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