Michigan governor signs repeal of 1931 abortion law, says protecting abortion ‘saved lives’

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation Wednesday that repeals the state’s 1931 “trigger ban” on abortion.

The 1931 law made it a felony to assist in an abortion, though it had not been enforceable due to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade. Once Roe was overturned, the law should have gone into effect. However, abortion advocates, including Whitmer, filed lawsuits against the law and it was quickly blocked by the courts. Voters in the state later approved a constitutional amendment affirming a “right to abortion,” but Democratic lawmakers wanted to pass legislation to cement the repeal of the 1931 law by overturning it outright. That legislation passed both the Senate and the House last month.

“We cannot allow archaic laws to remain on our books under the assumption that they’ll never be used again,” said Democratic state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky. “We don’t know what the future will hold and we don’t know what plans abortion opponents have.”

Whitmer signed the legislation during a ceremony where she sat in front of pink signs reading “bans off our bodies.”

“Today, we’re going to take action to ensure that our statutes, our laws reflect our values and our constitution,” she said. “This is a long overdue step.”

Whitmer also tweeted an ironic statement in which she boasted that repealing the trigger law somehow saved lives. “Before the Dobbs decision, I filed a lawsuit that helped us secure an injunction against enforcement of the 1931 law,” she wrote. “As a result, there was not a single day when access to abortion was illegal in Michigan. By being proactive, we saved lives.”

In reality, because the 1931 law protecting preborn children was not able to go into effect, many preborn children in Michigan were senselessly killed through abortions. The state saw a total of 30,074 abortions committed in 2021, and 29,669 in 2020. Based on these numbers, it is likely that approximately 30,000 lives were lost to abortion in 2022. With the repeal of Roe v. Wade in June of 2022, thousands of those lives might have been saved had the trigger law, which protects most children from abortion, been allowed to take effect.

Whitmer also touted the bill’s signing as “good economics” — a phrase she has used in the past to defend abortion.

“Standing up for people’s fundamental freedoms is the right thing to do and it’s also just good economics,” she said in a press release, which included further ironic remarks. “By getting this done, we will help attract talent and business investment too. I will continue to use every tool in my toolbox to support, protect, and affirm reproductive freedom for every Michigander, and I’ll work with anyone to make Michigan a welcoming beacon of opportunity where anyone can envision a future.”

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Right to Life of Michigan spoke out against the law’s repeal.

“Today is a dark day for women in our state and for unborn children nearing birth. Cloaking the elimination of long-standing, common-sense health and safety protections in the mantra of ‘women’s rights’ demonstrates the extreme nature of the Governor’s abortion activism,” said Barbara Listing, President, Right to Life of Michigan. “Governor Whitmer may find the national spotlight dimming as the reality of today’s action unfolds. The Governor’s radical abortion at all costs approach to women’s health and safety has historically been relegated to an unelectable wing of her party.”

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