Published in Health Care

Medical groups alarmed, seek guidance following latest abortion court ruling

BY Monday, August 01, 2022 05:16pm

UPDATE: An Oakland County circuit court judge on Monday evening granted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s request for a temporary restraining order to block local prosecutors from enforcing the state’s 1931 abortion law.

The trade group representing more than 15,000 Michigan physicians is raising concerns for its members following a state Court of Appeals ruling allowing county prosecutors to pursue criminal charges in most abortion cases under a 1931 law.

Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker. COURTESY PHOTO

The Michigan State Medical Society (MSMS) today reiterated its opposition to the “potential criminalization of physicians and their patients in making health care decisions.”

“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,” MSMA Chief Operating Officer Kevin McFatridge said in a statement. “The ruling by the court today goes against these fundamental principles of the patient-physician relationship.”

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruling today adds to weeks of legal uncertainty since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the landmark Roe V. Wade and roughly 50 years of federal constitutional protections for abortion in Dobbs V. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Prior to the June 24 SCOTUS ruling, a Michigan Court of Claims judge had placed an injunction on the state’s 1931 abortion law, which permits abortion procedures only when it is “necessary to preserve the life” of a woman. 

After the fall of Roe V. Wade, though, some local prosecutors — including in Kent County — claimed they were not bound by the Court of Claims injunction. The Michigan Court of Appeals today sided with those prosecutors, stating in an order that they have the discretion to prosecute cases under the nearly 100-year-old law. The order takes effect in 21 days.

“I cannot and will not ignore a validly passed law,” Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said in a statement today. “If a report is presented to this office, we will review it like we do any other report of possible criminal behavior. We will make the decision to charge, or not to charge, based on the facts presented in the report and the applicable Michigan law.”

Becker added that so far no reports have been sent to his office for review.

Becker’s initial position to follow the 1931 law caused confusion in late June at the largest in-state health system, when BHSH System officials said in a staff memo that it, too, would follow the 1931 law. Roughly 24 hours later, BHSH executives reversed course and said the health system would follow its ongoing policy of providing abortions when “medically necessary.”

BHSH did not immediately respond to a request for comment today.

Also following today’s ruling, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer requested a temporary restraining order to prevent county prosecutors from seeking jail time for abortion providers if they are charged in such a case.

“Today’s dangerous decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals clears a path for county prosecutors to use Michigan’s extreme 1931 abortion ban to prosecute doctors and nurses and jail them for doing their jobs,” Whitmer said in a statement.

The Michigan Health & Hospital Association — which represents hospitals across the state — noted that its members’ abortion policies vary and, for those that do provide the procedure, they typically are limited to “patients facing life-threatening complications or other circumstances that deem the abortion medically necessary require hospital-based care.”

“The decision today by the Court of Appeals illustrates the fluidity of the situation for healthcare providers who choose to perform abortions,” MHA CEO Brian Peters said in a stement, adding that since the overturning of Roe V. Wade the organization has been “pursuing legal guidance to protect healthcare providers and patients from incurring any unintentional criminal liability, harassment or negative health consequences due to a lack of clarity about Michigan’s law regarding reproductive healthcare services. This guidance includes reviewing today’s order so we can appropriately inform members of potential legal risk.”

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Read 1285 times Last modified on Monday, 01 August 2022 22:20