State-by-state fight over abortion rights heating up again


FILE – A number of Arizona reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates protest an abortion bill at the Arizona Capitol on Monday, April 26, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

(NewsNation Now) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is the latest to join the fight over abortion access, looking to protect abortion rights in her state as several other states look to overturn them.

On Thursday, Whitmer and Planned Parenthood filed separate lawsuits to protect abortion rights in Michigan.

Whitmer’s lawsuit asks a Michigan court to recognize the right to get an abortion under the state constitution and to overturn a 176-year-old ban in the state that might take effect again if the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling is vacated.

Also Thursday, seven Democratic county prosecutors who were named in Whitmer’s lawsuit pledged to not enforce the anti-abortion law. The other six elected prosecutors who were sued are Republicans.

The defendant in the Planned Parenthood case is Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat who has long said she would not enforce the ban. She said her office will not defend the law unless it is ordered to by a court. Other parties that support the law can seek to intervene, she said.

“I didn’t become attorney general so that I could head an office that put women in a position in which some of them will likely die,” Nessel said.

Michigan is among eight states with an unenforced abortion ban enacted before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide.

“I vowed then, as I do now, to never utilize this outdated, dangerous, cruel law to prosecute women and their doctors,” Nessel said.

States on both sides of the abortion issue have been taking various steps to prepare for Roe being eroded or rescinded, including making it a crime to perform an abortion and banning legal action against people who aid or receive an abortion.

Recently, Texas, Arizona, Kentucky and Idaho have moved to restrict abortion access in their states.

Earlier this week, the Oklahoma legislature gave the green light to a bill known as the heartbeat bill, making abortion a felony and punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $1,000 fine.

The only exception to the proposed legislation is if the life of the mother is in danger.

“We’re saving probably tens of thousands of pre-born babies’ lives in Oklahoma and probably hundreds of thousands across the nation,” said Oklahoma State Rep. Todd Russ.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is slated to rule on a Mississippi abortion case that centers on the constitutionality of a law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

When the high court hands down its decision this summer, access to legal abortion could end for more than 100 million Americans, including those living in nearly every southern state and large swaths of the Midwest.

“We need to erase the perception that people support abortion … what I support is families, partners, marriages … those people need to make the decision themselves and not me as a legislator,” said Tennessee State Sen. Sara Kyle.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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