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Published in Health Care
Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids. Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids. COURTESY PHOTO

Health providers welcome restraining order in chaotic day for Michigan abortion rights

BY Monday, August 01, 2022 10:16pm

BHSH System, the parent corporation of Spectrum Health in West Michigan and the largest in-state health system, will “continue to provide reproductive health care to our communities” as a legal case continues on a 91-year-old law banning most abortions in Michigan.

 An Oakland County judge Monday evening, acting on a request from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, issued a temporary restraining order that prevents county prosecutors from enforcing the 1931 law while the case remains pending in court. 

Abortion providers spent much of Monday in legal limbo as multiple court rulings left the fate of abortion access across Michigan far from certain.

The temporary restraining order from Circuit Court Judge Jacob Cunningham came just hours after the Michigan Court of Appeals earlier Monday issued an injunction allowing enforcement by county porosecutors of the 1931 state law that prohibits abortions in the state, except when it is “necessary to preserve the life” of a woman.

The appeals court Monday morning ruled that local county prosecutors are not bound by a prior injunction in a case the governor initiated that barred enforcement of the 1931 law. The subsequent ruling in Oakland County temporarily puts that on hold.

Cunningham scheduled a Zoom hearing for Wednesday on the issue after determining that a temporary restraining order “is necessary to prevent the immediate and irreparable injury that will occur if (prosecutors) are allowed to prosecute abortion providers” under the 1931 law, Cunningham wrote. The order applies to prosecutors in 13 counties, including Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker.

“As we continue to provide reproductive health care to our communities, BHSH System believes these health decisions are both personal and private and best made between the patient and their physician,” BHSH System said in a statement Monday night to MiBiz. “We are aware of and continue to monitor legal developments in the Michigan courts.

The Michigan Court of Appeals’ Monday ruling added to weeks of legal uncertainty since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the landmark Roe V. Wade case of nearly 50 years that protected the right to an abortion before it was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I am grateful for this relief — however temporary — because it will help ensure that Michigan’s doctors, nurses, and health care systems can continue caring for their patients,” Whitmer said of the Oakland County temporary restraining order. “This lack of legal clarity — that took place within the span of a workday — is yet another textbook example of why the Michigan Supreme Court must take up my lawsuit against the 1931 extreme abortion ban as soon as possible. Michigan’s doctors, nurses, and health care systems cannot afford to wait any longer. I will keep fighting like hell to protect women and health care providers.”

In his order granting the temporary restraining order against enforcing the state’s 1931 law for now, Cunningham wrote that it was “necessary to preserve the last, peaceable, uncontested status quo pending further order from the court.”

Some local prosecutors, including Kent County’s Chris Becker, have said they intend to prosecute cases under the 1931 law, sparking concern earlier Monday from a statewide group representing more than 15,000 physicians.

Another organization representing physicians, the Committee to Protect Health Care, praised the temporary restraining order.

“Decisions around abortion should be made between women and their trusted doctors, not by politicians or prosecutors,” Dr. Farhan Bhatti, family physician in Lansing and Michigan state lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care, said in a statement. “We believe in trusting our patients to make their own decisions around pregnancy and abortion, and doctors must be able to use the full range of treatment options when serious complications arise in a pregnancy, including abortion. Banning abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, is dangerous and cruel.”

Read 1328 times Last modified on Monday, 01 August 2022 22:20
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