CHICAGO — David and Sondra Zorn spent nearly every minute together during the 64 years they were married. They’d spend days together in the home they shared with their children, listening to gospel music or watching “Jeopardy.” Ever since they met at a South Side church’s youth group, then married at ages 18 and 24, the couple had been inseparable. They had lived in the same home in Lombard, Illinois, since 1962. And so their children always thought that when they passed away, they would do that together, too. But never did anyone imagine it would be so very close. The Zorns died within days o...
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While Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel, reproductive health groups and physicians emphasize that abortion remains legal in Michigan, some Republican county prosecutors are arguing otherwise. Those statements could create a “chilling effect” on patients and health care providers navigating a post-Roe landscape, a Planned Parenthood of Michigan spokesperson said Tuesday.
“We are really disappointed in county prosecutors who are spreading disinformation and scaring patients,” said Planned Parenthood of Michigan spokesperson Ashlea Phenicie. “I want to be clear that abortion is legal in Michigan, and Planned Parenthood stores are open. Patients who have appointments can keep them, and patients who need them can make them.”
After the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, ending the constitutional right to an abortion that has existed in the nation for nearly 50 years, abortion legality now falls to each individual state. In Michigan, there is a 91-year-old law enacted in 1931 that criminalizes abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest, but Whitmer and Nessel say its enforcement is on hold after a Court of Claims judge granted an injunction in a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood to block the abortion ban.
Republican county prosecutors in Kent and Jackson counties, however, argue the injunction pertains solely to the state attorney general’s office and not county prosecutors and said they would consider criminal charges against abortion providers if police brought them investigations, according to an attorney representing the prosecutors.
“They’re not out looking for cases, but if a police agency brought a report or investigation to them that a doctor performed an abortion and violated the law, a prosecutor could prosecute them,” said David Kallman, an attorney who represents Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker and Jackson County Prosecutor Jerard Jarzynka.
Kallman, who endorsed former Republican House Speaker Tom Leonard’s bid for state attorney general before the Michigan GOP endorsed Matthew DePerno to run against Nessel, has litigated past cases against COVID-19 health measures and gender identity protections. He represented Owosso barber Karl Manke, who defied Whitmer’s stay-home orders and opened his shop at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kallman also sued the Williamston School District for adopting a nondiscrimination policy related to transgender students, as well as Planet Fitness for allowing transgender women to use the women’s locker room.
Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido, who faced numerous allegations of sexual harassment while serving as a Republican in the state Senate, also said he would uphold an abortion ban “if it’s on the books.”
“I took an oath of office to uphold the law, the constitution of this state and the Constitution of the United States,” Lucido told the Detroit Free Press prior to Roe v. Wade being overturned.
In 2020, a Senate Business Office investigation into Lucido found that the GOP lawmaker engaged in “inappropriate workplace behavior” during his time as a state senator that “demonstrates an unfortunate pattern of behavior” after three women made their allegations public. A fourth woman later came forward in March 2021. Lucido denied those allegations. Earlier this year, Macomb County hired a law firm to investigate “complaints alleging unlawful discrimination and/or harassment” about Lucido.
As for abortion, police have not yet brought forward any cases to the prosecutors, and a Michigan State Police spokesperson said they are not currently enforcing the 1931 law.
“Our members have been advised to take any complaints they receive and document them, but to conduct no further investigation,” Michigan State Police spokesperson Shanon Banner wrote in an email.
Becker said in a prepared statement issued Monday that he does not “believe it proper for me to simply ignore a law/any law that was passed by the Michigan Legislature and signed by the Governor.”
The Kent County prosecutor went on to say that the 1931 law “does not allow for charges to be filed against the woman seeking or getting an abortion” but “only allows for charges to be filed against a doctor performing an abortion.”
Jackson County Prosecutor Jerry Jarzynka told the Advance on Tuesday that because none of the state’s 83 county prosecutors were involved in the Planned Parenthood case for which the Court of Claims judge issued the injunction that his office still needs to enforce the 1931 law.
“There is a statute on the books that basically prohibits abortion except for the life of the mother,” Jarzynka said, referring to the provision in the law that states an abortion can take place if the pregnant person’s life is in danger. “That’s the law right now, and as a prosecutor I’m going to follow the law.
“Basically, if the police or law enforcement agency brings me a case. … I will look at it as I will any other criminal violation that’s alleged,” Jarzynka continued. “As a prosecutor, I can’t ignore the law.”
Nessel and Whitmer, both Democrats, said the Republican prosecutors’ claims are wrong and have issued repeated statements following the end of Roe that health care workers providing abortion care cannot be prosecuted.
“As it currently stands, providing abortion care in Michigan cannot be prosecuted, and I encourage those with appointments to move forward as scheduled and consult with their doctors,” Nessel said in a prepared statement. “Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling last week, I remain committed to ensuring a woman’s right to choose and will continue to fight against every attempt to limit access to care. This includes ensuring Michiganders are properly informed regarding the current state court battle that is far from over.”
Phenicie said “any prosecutors who disregard” the injunction “could face contempt proceedings.”
On May 17, Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher issued a preliminary injunction in Planned Parenthood of Michigan v. Attorney General of the State of Michigan.
Nessel said the injunction bars her office and all 83 county prosecutors from enforcing the 1931 law. Gleicher could not be reached for comment.
Gleicher determined that without an injunction, plaintiffs and their patients “face a serious danger of irreparable harm if prevented from accessing abortion services.”
The case is moving forward, and Gleicher ultimately will decide whether or not to enter a permanent injunction if she finds the 1931 statute unconstitutional.
Other county prosecutors have said they will follow the injunction and not enforce the 1931 law, including Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald, a Democrat.
McDonald said in a prepared statement issued Friday that her office “will not use its limited resources to prosecute any woman or health care provider for a safe medical decision affecting their body.
“Instead, we will dedicate our limited resources for the prosecution of serious crimes, like gun violence, and the pursuit of justice for all,” McDonald continued.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who also is a Democrat, did not respond to a request for comment, but she has previously said that her office will not enforce the 1931 abortion ban.
There’s another lawsuit that could impact abortion access in Michigan.
Whitmer has filed a lawsuit asking the state Supreme Court to strike down the 1931 law. Whitmer on Friday filed a motion urging the state Supreme Court to immediately consider her lawsuit. On Monday, she sent a notice to the Supreme Court again asking justices to take up her suit to avoid further confusion around the 1931 law.
“Right now, abortion remains safe and legal in Michigan because of a court order temporarily blocking enforcement of the state’s 1931 abortion ban,” Whitmer said in a prepared statement. “But in the wake of the decision … overturning Roe, certain county prosecutors and health providers have expressed confusion about the current legal status of abortion in Michigan.”
Whitmer noted in her court filing Monday that confusion around the 1931 law has resulted in health officials issuing mixed messages about abortion, including at the state’s largest health health system, BHSH System. The system is a merger of the Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health and Beaumont Health, which serves Southeast Michigan.
On Friday, BHSH System said it would follow the 1931 law. Hours later, BHSH System President and CEO Tina Freese Decker said her organization would continue to provide abortions when a pregnant person’s life was at risk. On Saturday night, the health system officially announced it would reinstate its previous policy of terminating pregnancies “when medically necessary.”
“At present, the current legal landscape regarding abortion in our state is unclear and uncertain,” BHSH said in a prepared statement. “We are aware of the 1931 Michigan law. However, given the uncertainties and confusion surrounding its enforcement, until there is clarity, we will continue our practice of providing abortions when medically necessary.”
BHSH said “we have not and will not perform elective abortions.”
Other health care facilities said the end of Roe v. Wade would not affect its care.
“The reversal of the Roe v Wade decision will not impact any patient care at Sparrow Health System at this time,” Sparrow Hospital said in a statement provided to the Advance on Tuesday. “Safe access to care for all mothers-to-be continues to be available at all Sparrow Health System locations.”
While the status of abortion rights in Michigan following Friday’s SCOTUS decision may be causing confusion at some health facilities, Phenicie said that was far from the case at Planned Parenthood. In fact, she noted a surge of people have reached out to Planned Parenthood of Michigan in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned.
“When the Supreme Court case was announced on Friday, our patient call center volume doubled,” Phenicie said. “Over the weekend, we’ve seen a 50% increase in requests for abortion appointments over the prior week.”
While she could not confirm this was definitely the case, Phenicie said she expects that increase in appointments is for individuals living in states where abortion is now outlawed.
On Monday, physicians from across Michigan called for abortion to remain legal in Michigan. Dr. Rob Davidson, an emergency physician in West Michigan and the executive director of the Committee to Protect Health Care, urged voters to back the Reproductive Freedom For All ballot initiative.
Michiganders may be able to vote on a reproductive rights ballot initiative in the November election. The proposal would enshrine the right to abortion in the Michigan state Constitution. The groups behind the proposal — the ACLU of Michigan, Planned Parenthood of Michigan and Michigan Voices — are currently working to secure the necessary signatures for the proposal to be on the ballot. The proposal would also amend the Constitution to include people’s right to birth control, miscarriage care and prenatal care.
Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.
Speaking on CNN this Wednesday, legal analyst Norm Eisen said that in light of recent testimony before the Jan. 6 committee, "Trump's involvement in violence" on Jan. 6 is now being scrutinized, making legal action all the more possible.
Defense attorney Caroline Polisi agreed, saying there is "now a plethora of potential criminal charges at play."
"We talk a lot about what crimes could be charged here, and yesterday was the first time I certainly saw that we saw a through line between seditious conspiracy, the violence that took place [on Jan. 6] we heard about in the first hearing with the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, and actually President Trump," Polisi said.
"Up until this time, yesterday essentially, I could only see exposure for obstruction of an official proceeding, potentially obstruction -- conspiracy to defraud the United States, things of that nature," she continued. "Now we're actually getting around to the realm of seditious conspiracy."
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top White House aide with unique access to Trump and the inner workings of the West Wing, testified Tuesday at the sixth June hearing of the House committee probing the attack on the US Capitol.
An executive assistant to Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows, she was a central figure in the White House around the period of the insurrection on January 6 last year.
In some of the most explosive testimony from the hearings so far, Hutchinson said Trump and some of his top lieutenants were aware of the possibility of violence ahead of the attack -- contradicting claims that the assault was spontaneous and had nothing to do with the administration.
Hutchinson said she recalled her boss saying four days before the insurrection: "Things might get real, real bad on January 6."
Hutchinson had sought out Meadows, she said, after a White House meeting involving Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
As they were heading to Giuliani's car, he asked her if she was "excited" for January 6, she testified.
When she asked what was happening on that day, Hutchinson testified that Giuliani "responded something to the effect of, 'We're going to the Capitol,'" Hutchinson said.
"'It's going to be great. The president's going to be there. He's going to look powerful. He's going to be with the members. He's going to be with the senators. Talk to the chief about it. Talk to the chief about it. He knows about it.'"
Watch the video below.
With additional reporting by AFP
The DOJ is going to make Mark Meadows a suspect or target of an investigation: Ex-Justice Department official
Former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman explained Wednesday on MSNBC that Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony before the House Select Committee was a "game-changer."
Hutchinson was a top aide in the White House in the lead-up to the attempt to overthrow the 2020 election and the attack on Congress on Jan. 6. Speaking under oath to the committee on Tuesday, she linked her former boss, then-chief of staff Mark Meadows to first-hand knowledge about several possible conspiracies.
Litman first explained that he thinks former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone will ultimately come forward about what he knows. Cipollone hasn't been willing to come forward, but he's been called out by the committee on several occasions. Just last week, co-chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) named him, but said that the evidence they've received from witnesses indicates he "tried to do the right thing."
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) noted that one of the reasons they've talked about him so much as a witness is that they have heard his name so many times from so many witnesses.
"We have a pressure of history, the kind of John Dean moment and 'what side are you on.' It is big enough that for a guy like Pat who wants to be an establishment figure, get further jobs in administrations and the like, her forthrightness and courage makes a poor contrast with his cravenness and his, sort of, I don't want to say hiding behind, but his assertions of privilege really are makeweight now because we know Biden says that there is no privilege," Litman explained. "Moreover, Cipollone is a told Bill Barr guy from the start and Bill Barr did come forward and testify. My best guess is that they are trying to work out an arrangement for him to come forward. Not because he is in general hot water, but because he doesn't want to be on the wrong side of history and a narrative that has now gotten profoundly more serious in the last 24 hours."
As for Meadows, host Chris Jansing asked why someone like him would come forward if he's a potential target for the Justice Department.
"This is what happens with potential criminals," Litman said frankly. "You decide maybe you should play an open hand. I have no doubt that Meadows is thinking about — you're right, Chris, he is too big to get a free ride, but he is not too big to get some consideration. So, he has to rethink his posture and think of what kind of problems he is in if he doesn't come forward. He is thinking mainly about himself and his own skin. But there are reasons that suspects have for not coming forward to cooperate. I don't see it happening with him. on the other hand I see it as way more likely than I did yesterday that the department will make him a very serious suspect or target of investigations."
See the discussion below:
Is Mark Meadows headed for a DOJ probe? youtu.be