Health Care

Whitmer signs bill repealing 1931 abortion ban

The bill rolls back legislative language made obsolete when voters passed a constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights last year.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed legislation Wednesday rolling back a decades-old abortion ban. (Photo credit: Michigan Governor’s Office)

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) on Wednesday signed the repeal of a 1931 law that banned all abortions in the state, a mostly symbolic move after voters enshrined abortion rights in the state constitution in a November ballot measure

“In November, Michiganders sent a clear message: we deserve to make our own decisions about own bodies,” Whitmer said in a statement, adding that protecting reproductive rights is “good economics.” “I will continue to use every tool in my toolbox to support, protect, and affirm reproductive freedom for every Michigander, and I’ll work with anyone to make Michigan a welcoming beacon of opportunity where anyone can envision a future.” 

Michigan is one of about a dozen states – all controlled by Democrats – that have expanded access to abortions since the Supreme Court ruled in 2022 that there is no constitutional right to the procedure. 

Republican-controlled states, meanwhile, have moved in the opposite direction. In Florida, for example, the state Senate on Monday passed a bill that would ban almost all abortions in the state after 6 weeks of gestation. 

Democrats in Michigan had promised to repeal the state’s abortion ban since they took control of both chambers of the state legislature in November. Whitmer’s signature comes after a series of moves that rolled back policies that were put in place during the previous decade of GOP control, from gun rights to right to work laws to tax cuts. 

The 1931 law made it a felony to perform most abortions, without exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. The law has not been enforced for decades. After the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022, a state judge issued an order temporarily blocking the older ban. 

The bills Whitmer signed Wednesday repeal related aspects of the penal code dealing with the distribution of medications that could induce miscarriages, or “the publication or sale of any circular, pamphlet or book that contains recipes for compounds to prevent conception or that tend to produce miscarriage or abortion.”

“Today marks a culmination of a years-long attempt since 2018 when I introduced the first bill in the Michigan legislature aimed at repealing the anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-reproductive health laws from 1931,” said Sen. Erika Geiss (D), who sponsored one of the bills in the package. “Today, we strike down these laws that served to stymie the freedom of people to have the bodily autonomy to manage their own sexual and reproductive health once and for all.” 

Whitmer has already taken a series of actions to protect reproductive rights in the state, including an executive order she issued in 2022 that the state would refuse to extradite women who came to the state seeking abortions or the health care providers who treat them.