Michigan Is Officially Rid of Its 1931 Abortion Ban

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday signed into law a bill that repeals the state’s 1931 abortion ban. (@GovWhitmer / Twitter)

On Wednesday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed three bills, repealing the state’s 92-year-old abortion ban—a law prohibiting abortions without exceptions for rape, incest or health of the pregnant woman. (It only allows abortions that “preserve the life” of a patient.)

“Today, we’re going to take action to ensure that our statutes, our laws reflect our values and our constitution,” Whitmer said. “This is a long overdue step.”

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June of last year and eliminated the federal right to abortion, a Michigan Court of Claims judge in September temporarily blocked the state’s 1931-era ban, to ensure continued access to abortion in the state.

In the November elections, the state tasked voters to decide the fate of the law. Ultimately, Michiganders resoundingly approved Proposal 3, a ballot measure that would repeal the ban and add an amendment to the state constitution explicitly establishing the right to abortion, as well as a broad range of other reproductive healthcare, including prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, miscarriage management and infertility. Proposal 3 was placed on the ballot by initiative petition, gathering more than 735,000 signatures—almost double the required minimum amount. 

The passage of Prop 3 in November meant the 1931 abortion ban was no longer in effect, but Democratic lawmakers still wanted to repeal it, so they took action on House Bill 4006. Republican state Reps. Thomas Kuhn and Donni Steele joined with all Democratic lawmakers in voting yes on the bill last month, which sent it to Whitmer’s desk.

Signed into law on Wednesday, House Bill 4006 repeals two laws: 

  • one that makes it a felony to administer an abortion to a pregnant woman unless “necessary to preserve the life of such woman,” and 
  • one that makes it a misdemeanor to sell or advertise abortion medication.

Whitmer also signed:

  • House Bill 4032, which removes abortion-related felonies from the state’s criminal code, and
  • Senate Bill 2repealing a law against spreading information on “recipes or prescriptions for drops, pills, tinctures, or other compounds” for contraception and abortions.

“I am about to slay three zombies with one pen,” Whitmer said before signing the three bills.

“It was created by men in power to control and stifle the independence of women, plain and simple,” said state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky on Wednesday, who sponsored the original bill to repeal the ban. “And I’m not gonna lie, it’s really satisfying that there is a group of women holding power that are about to repeal it.”

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Roxanne Szal (or Roxy) is the managing digital editor at Ms. and a producer on the Ms. podcast On the Issues With Michele Goodwin. She is also a mentor editor for The OpEd Project. Before becoming a journalist, she was a Texas public school English teacher. She is based in Austin, Texas. Find her on Twitter @roxyszal.