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Michigan Rep. Beau LaFave Criticizes Gov. Whitmer's Lawsuit On State Abortion Law

(CBS DETROIT/AP) -- Michigan Rep. Beau LaFave criticizes Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's lawsuit to protect abortion rights, announcing he plans to file a lawsuit in defense.

The news comes a day after the Democratic governor asked the Michigan Supreme Court to declare a state constitutional right to abortion and strike down the 1931 law, which could go back into effect if Roe is overturned or weakened.

LaFave, a Republican state representative from Iron Mountain, says he's going to file a suit "to defend Michigan's pro-life law."

Michigan Rep. Beau LaFave (credit: Michigan House Representatives)

"I plan to file a lawsuit to defend the strongest pro-life law in the country against the predations of radicals like Gretchen Whitmer and Planned Parenthood," LaFave said in a statement. "I have always sought to protect the sanctity of human life. Every human life is worth fighting for."

Michigan is among eight states with an unenforced abortion ban that was enacted before the 1973 decision legalized abortion nationwide. The law dates to an 1846 ban and makes it a felony to use an instrument or administer any substance with the intent "to procure the miscarriage" of a woman unless necessary to preserve her life.

Whitmer's lawsuit, which was filed in Oakland County Circuit Court, argues that the law is invalid under the due process and equal protection clauses of the state constitution.

In a statement, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says she will not use her office to defend the state's 1931 statute.

"As elected prosecutors and law enforcement officials, we have the opportunity to lead and to offer peace of mind to women and health-care professionals who might otherwise be placed in the untenable position of choosing between the exercise of personal health-care choices and the threat of criminal prosecution," Nessel said.

"Abortion care is an essential component of women's health care. As this state's top law enforcement officer, I have never wavered in my stance on this issue, and I will not prosecute women or their doctors for a personal medical decision."

The state high court has four Democratic and three Republican justices.

Whitmer will ask that the court intervenes in part to avoid legal uncertainty when the federal high court issues its ruling on Mississippi's ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The complaint says that while the Michigan Supreme Court in 1973 ruled that Roe limited the effect of the state ban, the right to abortion has been undermined over 50 years of litigation in federal courts. The state's high court has not said whether the state constitution protects the right. The Michigan Court of Appeals, in 1997, ruled there is no state constitutional right to abortion — a reason the Michigan Supreme Court should step in immediately, according to her office.

The lawsuit points to "substantial ambiguity" about what the state ban prohibits.

Officials say abortion rights advocates launched a ballot drive earlier this year to enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution. The group still needs about 425,000 voter signatures to put the initiative on the ballot in November.

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