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Whitmer Calls on Federal Government to Protect Michiganders Seeking Reproductive Health Care or Prescription Medication in Canada


July 7, 2022



Gov. Whitmer Calls on Federal Government to Protect Michiganders Seeking Reproductive Health Care or Prescription Medication in Canada

Governor urges clarity in federal guidance for Michiganders who may choose to go to Canada for reproductive care, including medication abortion

LANSING, Mich. — Governor Gretchen Whitmer asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for clarity on Michiganders’ right to cross the US-Canada border to seek reproductive health care or prescription medication, including medication abortion. Currently, there is conflicting guidance online from the HHS and DHS about Americans’ ability to bring medication from Canada into the United States, and Americans deserve to know all their legal options as they seek vital health care. 

After the recent US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade, Michiganders need to know that they can access the reproductive health care and prescription medication they need,” said Governor Whitmer. That is why I wrote to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security, urging them to immediately issue guidance clarifying that no legal obstacle prevents Michiganders from seeking reproductive health care in Canada or from bringing prescription medication secured in Canada back to the United States. I will continue fighting like hell to protect access to abortion and other reproductive care in Michigan, and I encourage the federal government to pull out all the stops to ensure that Michiganders can access care in Canada if they need to. In this perilous, precarious moment for women’s fundamental rights, we need to be creative and take bold action. We must lead.

The letter can be viewed here.

Current Lack of Clarity

Current rules on importing drugs, including those that may be used for medication abortion, are complex and not well-understood by the public. The FDA website, for example, states that “[i]n most circumstances, it is illegal for individuals to import drugs into the United States for personal use. In direct contrast, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website states that travelers can bring prescription medication across the border with a doctor’s prescription. There is a clear need for clarification, made urgent by the recent decision in Dobbs overturning Roe.

Michigan’s Border with Canada

Among the 13 states that share a border with Canada, Michigan has the largest metropolitan population near the country. Nearly 4.4 million Michiganders live in Metro Detroit alone—right across the river from Windsor—and the Ambassador Bridge is the busiest land border crossing between the two countries, with more than 10,000 commercial vehicles on a typical weekday.

Michigan’s Pre-Roe Ban & Injunction

The current version of Michigan’s law criminalizing abortion without exceptions for rape or incest was enacted in 1931. In 1973, the decision in Roe v Wade rendered Michigan’s 1931 ban unconstitutional and abortion became legal in the state of Michigan.

On May 17, 2022, a Michigan state judge granted a preliminary injunction in a suit brought by Planned Parenthood against Michigan’s unconstitutional 1931 law criminalizing abortion. This injunction temporarily blocks the abortion ban, emphasizing the need for Governor Whitmer’s action to permanently protect legal abortion in Michigan.

Governor Whitmer’s Lawsuit

The governor filed a lawsuit and asked the Michigan Supreme 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.

Michiganders on Abortion

For Michiganders, this issue is beyond settled. According to a poll from January 2022, 67.3% of Michiganders support Roe and 65.7% support repealing Michigan’s 1931 trigger ban on abortion. Over 77% believe abortion should be a woman’s decision. A sizeable majority of Michiganders agree that abortion is a decision to for a woman to make in consultation with a medical professional she trusts.