Whitmer, Nessel vow to continue abortion rights fight; conservatives hail high court ruling

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lambasted the U.S. Supreme Court's decision overturning the half-century-old landmark abortion rights decision as a "sad day in America" and vowed to "fight like hell" to make abortion accessible in Michigan.

"However we personally feel about abortion, health — not politics — should drive important medical decisions," Whitmer said Friday in a statement. 

More:What loss of Roe means for women who want abortions in Michigan

Reactions poured in Friday from politicians and interest groups across Michigan following the Supreme Court ruling that overturned the legal right to abortion granted in the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

In a 6-3 decision, the court's conservative majority issued a ruling on Friday in a case involving a Mississippi abortion law, effectively gutting the constitutional protections for abortion and paving the way for individual states to ban the procedure.

Abortion opponents rejoiced at the decision, which had been anticipated since early May after a draft of the decision was leaked from the high court.

"The court’s decision rightly returns power to the state level, and in the days ahead, it is critical that we continue the important work of standing for the sanctity of life," U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, said in a statement.

Abortion continues to be legal in Michigan because of a state judge's earlier ruling that halted enforcement of a 1931 law criminalizing abortion in almost all cases, except to save the life of the mother. There's no exception in the 1931 law for abortion in cases of rape or incest.

Who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade

Republican-nominated Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett joined Justice Samuel Alito in the majority opinion overturning a half-century of the right of women to terminate a pregnancy. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a concurring opinion in the 6-3 decision to uphold the Mississippi law at issue in the case while disagreeing with the majority's reasoning. 


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Whitmer, a Democrat, reiterated her commitment to fighting the 1931 law, which has its roots in an 1846 abortion ban that predates the constitutional right of women to vote by nearly six decades.

The Whitmer administration filed a lawsuit challenging the law earlier this year and a temporary hold has been put in place that will keep the law from going into effect until the state Supreme Court rules on the case.

"... We need to clarify that under Michigan law, access to abortion is not only legal, but constitutionally protected.

"The 1931 law would punish women and strip away their right to make decisions about their own bodies," Whitmer said, criticizing Republican state legislators for defending the ban and proposing additional legislation that would further criminalize abortion. 

U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar

On the other side of the aisle, U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, celebrated the decision by saying Roe vs. Wade had been "wrongly decided."

"This is one of the most wonderful days in the history of our country and today’s ruling will save millions of lives,” Moolenaar said in a statement touting his pro-life voting record.

"I have always believed that future generations will look back on permissive abortion as a moral stain on our country’s history and today’s decision will begin healing the errors of the past."

U. S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow

Michigan's senior senator called the Supreme Court's decision "a very dark moment for women and their families in this country."

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who held a news conference outside the Westin Hotel at Detroit Metro Airport after returning from Washington, D.C., said abortion rights have always been about a women’s “right to privacy" in making decisions about their health.

“And today the United States Supreme Court said, 'No, no, no, we don’t have the right as women to make our own decision,'” Stabenow told reporters. “The Supreme Court justices make our decisions, a group of politicians make our decisions. It’s outrageous. And it will unfortunately cost women’s lives.”

Pam Obriot (left) stands with Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Susan Schissler at planned parenthood rally in Ann Arbor on Saturday, May 14, 2022.

Stabenow scoffed at the conservative argument that abortion protections are not in the U.S. Constitution.

“A lot of things are not in the Constitution. The word woman is not in the Constitution," said Stabenow, the first and only woman to represent Michigan in the U.S. Senate. "There are all kinds of things that aren’t in the Constitution. But under the right to privacy, over the years, for decades, the Supreme Court has said what the right to privacy means to make our own personal decisions.”

Planned Parenthood of Michigan

During a news conference immediately after the Dobbs decision, Sarah Wallett, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of Michigan, reiterated that abortion remains legal in Michigan.

"People will be harmed because of this decision, without a doubt," Wallett said. “Abortion is health care. Not being able to access health care is devastating."

Wallett pointed to the U.S.’s high levels of maternal mortality, levels that are even worse for women of color.

“Having an abortion is safer than than continuing a pregnancy and going through childbirth," she said. "This decision removes that option from people.”

Planned Parenthood’s clinic remains open, Wallett said, and patients will continue to receive care there.

Paula Thornton Greear, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Michigan, said Friday’s decision was the result of a “small but very vocal faction of the country.” She said the country is entering “a new chapter in health care,” but that it would not change her organization’s commitment to care.

“We are going to meet this moment and to continue meeting this moment,” she said. “It’s going to take all of us. It’s going to take the fine people at Planned Parenthood of Michigan and it’s going to take the voices and support of people across the state.”

Right to Life Michigan

Barbara Listing, the president of Right to Life Michigan, said the conservative justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade "are on the right side of history today.”

“We stand by our justices and thank them for their courage and wisdom in overruling a law that has plagued our society for the past 50 years," Listing said in a statement.

She urged “pro-abortion activists" to accept this decision and reiterated  the group's commitment to uphold Michigan's abortion ban, which currently isn't enforceable because of a state judge's order. 

“We know that one day Michigan’s 1931 abortion law will be enforced again. ... We will continue to peacefully work towards this through the legal system,” Listingsaid. 

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

In a statement following the ruling, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said the decision sets a dangerous precedent by reversing "50 years of settled law" and would create extraordinary upheaval in the American legal system.

"The overturning of Roe is not just the loss of a right; it is the erosion of our status as equal citizens under the law," Nessel said.

"Now we must do what our courts have failed to do: we must act to ensure that women are not permanently relegated to second-class citizens in this country."

Nessel said she would use the full weight of her office to continue fighting for a woman's right to choose.

Michigan State Medical Society

The Lansing-based organization that represents physicians said the High Court's ruling sets up a debate over "very real and practical public policy decisions" regarding health care decisions made between women and their doctors.

Kevin McFatridge, chief operating officer of the Michigan State Medical Society, said the "deeply personal" physician-patient relationship "must be respected and protected at all costs."

The Michigan State Medical Society opposes "the potential criminalization of physicians and their patients in making health care decisions,"  McFatridge said.

"Physicians and their patients should be free to consider, discuss, and pursue medical procedures guided by a physician’s best medical judgment and a patient’s physical health and safety," he said.