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Whitmer Signs Executive Directive on Protecting Reproductive Healthcare

May 25, 2022 


Gov. Whitmer Signs Executive Directive Instructing State Departments and Agencies to Protect Reproductive Healthcare 
With Roe under attack, Governor directs state departments and agencies to shore up reproductive health protections in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive directive instructing State of Michigan departments and agencies to review aspects of reproductive health care that fall within their jurisdiction and identify and assess potential opportunities to increase protections for reproductive health care, such as contraception, long-acting reversible contraception, and emergency contraception.

Governor Whitmer Statement

The right to safe, legal abortion in the State of Michigan is under attack. According to the recent draft opinion in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v Wade soon, taking away a right that Americans have had for 49 years. If Roe is overturned, Michigan’s 1931 law banning abortion even in cases of rape or incest and criminalizing doctors and nurses may go back into effect. This would punish women—our neighbors, family, and friends—and criminalize doctors and nurses for doing their jobs.

In preparation for this very real possibility, I am signing an executive directive instructing all state departments and agencies not to cooperate with authorities from other states who want to prosecute women seeking legal abortion care. Also, the directive instructs departments and agencies to increase protections for reproductive healthcare within their purview and offer residents comprehensive information about the cost and availability of care

Now is the time to use every tool in our toolbox to protect all aspects of reproductive health care. No matter what happens in DC, I am going to fight like hell so every Michigander can make decisions about their own body. However we personally feel about abortion, health, not politics, should drive important medical decisions. A woman must be able to make her own medical decisions with the advice of a healthcare professional she trusts. Politicians should not make that decision for her.”

Attorney General Nessel Statement

“No woman should be forced to choose between exercising her personal healthcare decisions and the threat of criminal prosecution. I applaud Governor Whitmer for drawing a line in the sand and making clear no state of Michigan department or agency will aid in the persecution of women who would seek medical care in our state.  It is incumbent upon those of us who hold public office to exercise the full authority of our positions to extend support and protection for women in our state--and our country.  That is why I have made clear that I will not use the resources of my office to enforce or defend Michigan’s 1931 statute criminalizing abortion.  I refuse to put millions of Michigan women at risk by restricting their access to safe abortions.”

Reproductive Health Executive Directive

Governor Whitmer’s executive directive instructs departments not to cooperate with or assist authorities of any state in any investigation or proceeding against anyone for obtaining, providing, or assisting someone else to obtain or provide reproductive healthcare that is legal where the health care is provided.

State of Michigan departments and agencies must also identify and assess potential opportunities to increase protections for reproductive health care, consistent with applicable law. They must detail how they can increase choices available to protect mental, physical, and reproductive health; safeguard the privacy of individuals seeking care; and assure the safety of reproductive healthcare providers.

Additionally, departments and agencies that communicate directly with the public on reproductive issues must provide accessible, comprehensive information about the current cost and availability of reproductive care and increase public awareness about the availability and safety of contraception

The executive directive can be viewed here.

Abortion Lawsuit

In April, Governor Whitmer filed a lawsuit and used the authority of the Executive Message to ask the Michigan Supreme Court to immediately resolve whether Michigan’s Constitution protects the right to abortion. Governor Whitmer’s legal action represents the first time a governor has filed a lawsuit to protect a woman's right to abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court signaled its willingness to consider overturning or circumscribing the federal right to an abortion. 

The lawsuit asks the court to recognize a constitutional right to an abortion under the Due Process Clause of the Michigan Constitution.  It also asks the court to stop enforcement of the 1931 Michigan abortion ban. The abortion ban violates Michigan’s due process clause, which provides a right to privacy and bodily autonomy that is violated by the state’s near-total criminal ban of abortion. It also violates Michigan’s Equal Protection Clause due to the way the ban denies women equal rights because the law was adopted to reinforce antiquated notions of the proper role for women in society. 

Women’s Health Protection Act Letter

Earlier this month, Governor Whitmer and a group of 16 governors came together to urge the United States Senate to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would put the protections offered by Roe into federal law. Since the overturn of Roe may come any day, the US Senate must act immediately to protect access to safe, legal abortion at the federal level. 

The full letter can be found here.