GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan prosecutors are debating what happens next after voters last week approved a ballot proposal that enshrines reproductive freedoms, including the right to abortions, in the state constitution.
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker, a Republican, argued the constitutional amendment creates conflicts with existing laws.
“I think this is ultimately going to be decided by courts and working its way through the court system,” he said.
Becker said sexual assault cases, especially concerning minors, could be affected.
“You created individual right to reproductive freedom that doesn’t define between adults or minors, so now there’s an individual right for reproductive freedom when you’re 10, 11. I mean, it doesn’t say only adults, so that could create the issues for some of our (criminal sexual conduct) laws and a whole host of other things,” he said.
He argued a minor could argue that they have a right to decide when to get pregnant under the reproductive protections, which could in theory stymie a statutory rape case.
He also said parental notification laws regarding abortion are being brought into question. He sees the language of the proposal as providing a legal right to reproductive freedom that is not clearly defined.
“How do you not say, ‘Well, this law that says parental notification is still valid’ when this broad language of the proposal is out there?” Becker said.
Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit, a Democrat, argued the ballot language did not say anything that would restrict prosecutions of crimes not related to abortion.
“There is absolutely nothing in Proposal 3 that will make it more difficult for us to prosecute sexual assault cases, statutory rape cases. It does not in any way shape or form speak to those issues at all,” Savit said. “The only thing that the passage of Prop 3 makes it more difficult to prosecute is that old 1931 anti-abortion law in Michigan, which has of course been superseded by Proposal 3.”
Savit said the proposal does leave open the door for the Legislature to change laws that cover what happens after the fetus is considered viable by doctors, along with medical safety regulations.
“I could see some legislation that clears up some of the health and safety standards that make sure both that we are ensuring abortions are safe but are also accessible,” he said.
But, he said, that has nothing to do with the prosecution of a crime.
“There’s criminal laws and there’s noncriminal laws and what I really want to provide assurance to folks about is that the criminal laws that we have on the books related to age of consent, statutory rape, things like that, those remain entirely unaffected by Proposal 3 and it’s just not the case if you’re hearing otherwise, just categorically not the case,” Savit said.