GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If Roe v. Wade is overturned, Michigan would revert back to a nearly century-old law banning abortion.
“Theoretically, that law would immediately go back into effect and so abortion would be illegal here in Michigan,” said Kyla Stepp, a criminal law professor at Central Michigan University.
Passed in 1931, the law makes it a felony to perform an abortion in Michigan.
Physicians or anyone else in violation of the law could be arrested and criminally charged. If convicted, offenders face time in prison.
Stepp explained the law has been unenforceable since the 1976 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortions nationwide.
If overturned, she said the change would be immediate.
“I would think out of an abundance of caution, abortion clinics and doctors would probably cease operating, at least of most of them,” Stepp said.
The law only allows for an abortion if the mother’s life is in danger, with no exceptions for incest or rape.
Stepp said enforcement would happen at the local level.
“It would have to be something that police and prosecutors enforce,” she said. “They could do something like go in and shutdown abortion clinics or they could wait until after and arrest anybody involved in an abortion. Obviously, that’s going to be different by community, how much police and prosecutors want to get involved.”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said her office will not defend or enforce the abortion ban. However, she can’t stop local prosecutors from doing so.
“I’m merely sending the message that my office will not be involved in any of these prosecutions,” Nessel said during a virtual news conference Tuesday.
Nessel is up for election this fall. Her Republican opponent, Matt Deperno, has previously said he will prosecute all abortions.