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Judge considers arguments over restraining order preventing abortion prosecutions

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An Oakland County judge says he’ll issue a ruling today on whether to extend a temporary order that shields abortion providers in Michigan from prosecution under adormant state law.

The announcement by Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Cunninghamcapped two days of testimony and often-tense questioning and arguments.

Cunningham is faced with the decision of whether to continue a restraining order he issued that blocks a 1931 law from taking effect. The law threatens abortion providers with felony charges. Some Republican prosecutors say they should be allowed to file charges under that law.

Attorney David Kallman represents those Republican prosecutors in the court case. He told the judge it's up to local prosecutors who answer to their constituents to make those decisions.

“There’s a public interest in 30,000 babies who are being aborted every year. There’s a public interest there,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who think that’s an important interest that’s being avoided and overlooked.”

The initial case was filed in Oakland County at the behest of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who would like a ruling that abortion rights are protected by the Michigan Constitution. Kallman said the governor’s request is an overreach of her authority and she should be denied for lack of a direct interest in the case.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Christina Grossi said the governor’s standing is rooted in a responsibility to protect public health and safety, including the right to make medical decisions.

“Of course, abortion is a public health issue,” she said. “Abortion is health care. And abortion is a public health issue because it affects an entire population of people in this state. All women are affected by the denial of care.”

Cunningham’s ruling will not be the final word. The decision is supposed to be about whether the abortion ban can be enforced while the merits of the case are argued in his courtroom.

Whoever loses on the issue of a restraining order is likely to file a challenge with the Michigan Court of Appeals. Whitmer has also filed a request for the Michigan Supreme Courtto bypass lower courts and move the case onto its docket. There has been no word from the court on the request.

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Rick Pluta is the managing editor for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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