Lansing, MI–With the looming possibility of a Roe v. Wade reversal, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has directed state departments and agencies to “shore up” reproductive health protections in Michigan.

On May 25, 2022, Whitmer signed an executive directive instructing State of Michigan departments and agencies to review aspects of reproductive health care that fall within their jurisdiction and identify potential opportunities to increase protections for reproductive health care.

Such health care, detailed in a May 25 press release from Whitmer, can include “contraception, long-acting reversible contraception, and emergency contraception.”

The executive directive also instructs departments not to cooperate with or assist the authorities of any state—“or any political subdivision of any state”—in an investigation or proceeding against an individual “for obtaining or providing, or assisting another to obtain or provide, any reproductive health care that is legal under the law of the jurisdiction where the care was provided.”

In a prepared statement, Whitmer said the following about her action:

“The right to safe, legal abortion in the State of Michigan is under attack. According to the recent draft opinion in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v Wade soon, taking away a right that Americans have had for 49 years. If Roe is overturned, Michigan’s 1931 law banning abortion even in cases of rape or incest and criminalizing doctors and nurses may go back into effect. This would punish women—our neighbors, family, and friends—and criminalize doctors and nurses for doing their jobs. 

In preparation for this very real possibility, I am signing an executive directive instructing all state departments and agencies not to cooperate with authorities from other states who want to prosecute women seeking legal abortion care. Also, the directive instructs departments and agencies to increase protections for reproductive healthcare within their purview and offer residents comprehensive information about the cost and availability of care.  

Now is the time to use every tool in our toolbox to protect all aspects of reproductive health care. No matter what happens in DC, I am going to fight like hell so every Michigander can make decisions about their own body. However we personally feel about abortion, health, not politics, should drive important medical decisions. A woman must be able to make her own medical decisions with the advice of a healthcare professional she trusts. Politicians should not make that decision for her.”  

Whitmer’s executive directive comes on the heels of a letter, jointly penned with 15 other governors, urging the United States Senate to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act which would federally codify the protections offered by Roe v. Wade. 

The directive also follows an April lawsuit Whitmer filed which asked the Michigan Supreme Court to recognize a constitutional right to abortion under the due process clause of the Michigan Constitution and to stop enforcement of the 1931 Michigan abortion ban.

In her own response to Whitmer’s executive directive, Attorney General Dana Nessel said, “No woman should be forced to choose between exercising her personal healthcare decisions and the threat of criminal prosecution. I applaud Governor Whitmer for drawing a line in the sand and making clear no state of Michigan department or agency will aid in the persecution of women who would seek medical care in our state.”

Nessel continued, “It is incumbent upon those of us who hold public office to exercise the full authority of our positions to extend support and protection for women in our state—and our country. That is why I have made clear that I will not use the resources of my office to enforce or defend Michigan’s 1931 statute criminalizing abortion. I refuse to put millions of Michigan women at risk by restricting their access to safe abortions.”

According to POLITICO, which broke the story on the Supreme Court’s draft opinion in the case which may overturn Roe v. Wade on May 3, a final decision should be issued “likely in the next two months.”

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....