Attorney General Dana Nessel: 'Scary' circumstances ahead for women under 1931 abortion law

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Sunday that a "really scary set of circumstances" would be ahead for women in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court revives a 1931 law that criminalizes abortion.

Nessel, a Democrat and Michigan's top law enforcement official, made the comment during an appearance on NBC's "Meet The Press." While Nessel has said she won't enforce the 91-year-old law, the policy would lead to women who procure abortions through medication being charged, and doctors becoming afraid of helping those facing miscarriages.

"The radical and extremist position of the Republicans in our state and all around the country completely contradicts what the public wants, and it really does place the lives of women in jeopardy," Nessel said. "Let's be clear: Women in my state and in states all over America are going to die because of this position."

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel appears on "Meet The Press" on Sunday, May 8, 2022.

On Monday, a leaked draft opinion revealed the U.S. Supreme Court was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that's protected a woman's ability to have an abortion across the country for decades. The draft opinion, penned by Justice Samuel Alito, was first reported by Politico.

Such a decision would rejuvenate a 1931 Michigan law that broadly criminalizes abortion unless the mother's life is at risk.

While some Democratic county prosecutors have joined Nessel in saying they wouldn't enforce the 1931 law, some Republican prosecutors have said they would. Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido, a Republican who serves in Michigan's third largest county, said last week, prosecutors don't have the "right to pick and choose laws in this state."

"If the police present a valid warrant with those elements of a crime, a prosecutor must prosecute," Lucido said.

During her interview Sunday, Nessel said she was hopeful the Michigan Supreme Court, with a majority of justices nominated by Democrats, will eventually rule to protect the right for women to have abortions under due process and equal protection arguments. She also spoke in support of an ongoing petition campaign to amend the state constitution on the matter.

Nessel criticized Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican who also appeared on "Meet The Press" Sunday." Reeves had avoided directly answering a question on whether he would be willing to sign a law banning contraception.

Reeves said Republicans were standing up for "the rights of unborn children" and those "who absolutely cannot stand up for themselves."

"That is an unborn child in that mother's womb," Reeves said at one point.

When asked about the possibility of a proposal banning contraception reaching his desk, Reeves replied, "I don't think that's going to happen in Mississippi."

The next step in the anti-abortion movement would be ensuring pregnant mothers have resources they need, he said.

The response from Reeves on the contraception question was "not in line at all with how Americans see their rights," Nessel said.

"Politicians do not belong in our doctors' offices," she added. "They don't belong in our bedrooms. And they should not be making these kinds of decisions on behalf of the American public and on behalf of women across America."

Nessel was first elected attorney general in 2018. She's up for reelection in November.

cmauger@detroitnews.com