Pro-life, Catholic groups file to intervene in Michigan governor's abortion lawsuit

Michigan Supreme Court The Hall of Justice building in downtown Lansing is home to the Supreme Court of Michigan. | Shutterstock

Pro-life and Catholic groups in Michigan are seeking to intervene in a lawsuit brought by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who asked the Michigan Supreme Court to declare that abortion is protected by the state’s constitution.

On behalf of Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference, faith-based legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a motion Friday to intervene in the case Whitmer v. Linderman.

“Every human life is valuable and worthy of protection under the law,” John Bursch, ADF’s senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy, said in a press release. “Gov. Whitmer should be doing everything in her power to uphold existing laws that protect the innocent and vulnerable lives of the unborn.”

“Instead, both she and the attorney general are attacking a law that was rightly enacted by the people of Michigan and has been serving them well for more than half a century,” said Bursch, who served as Michigan’s solicitor general from 2011 to 2013. “We urge the court to listen to the voices of those standing up in defense of the unborn — Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference — by allowing them to intervene in this lawsuit.”

In his remarks, Bursch referenced another, similar case called Planned Parenthood of Michigan v. Attorney General of the State of Michigan. ADF filed a proposed friend-of-the-court brief in that case on Wednesday for the same groups: Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference.

Both cases center on a 1931 state law that prohibits abortion, except to save the life of the mother. The law has not been enforced since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide, CNA previously reported

According to Friday’s motion, the law in question, MCL 750.14, forbids “wilfully administer[ing] to any pregnant woman any medicine, drug, substance or thing whatever, or shall employ any instrument or other means whatever, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of any such woman,” unless doing so was “necessary to preserve the life of [the] woman.”

Whitmer’s lawsuit questioning this law comes after the Michigan Court of Appeals found in 1997 that there is not a right to abortion in the state constitution.

The Michigan governor has asked that the case come under immediate Michigan Supreme Court review rather than proceeding in the trial court and Court of Appeals, as is typical, ADF  says. The orginization adds that the motion to intervene argues that Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference should be given the opportunity to defend the state’s pro-life law.

Whitmer’s lawsuit attempt to invalidate the 91-year-old law comes in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court potentially overturning Roe v. Wade this year, ADF adds. The defendants listed in the case are the 13 county prosecutors in jurisdictions with abortion clinics. 

ADF attorneys filed the motion together with counsel at The Smith Appellate Law Firm and Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge.

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