GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan attorneys general are debating what to do next after voters last week approved a ballot proposition enshrining reproductive freedoms, including abortion rights, in the state constitution.
Kent County District Attorney Chris Becker, a Republican, argued that the constitutional amendment conflicts with existing laws.
“I think it’s ultimately going to be decided by the courts and work its way through the court system,” he said.
Becker said that could have an impact on sexual assault cases, especially involving minors.
“You’ve created an individual right to reproductive freedom that doesn’t differentiate between adults and minors, so now there’s an individual right to reproductive freedom when you’re 10, 11. I mean, it’s not just about adults, so it can create questions for some of our (criminal sexual conduct) laws and a whole host of other things,” he said.
He argued that minors could argue that they have the right to decide when to get pregnant under reproductive protections, which could theoretically end a statutory rape case.
He also said laws on parental notification of abortions are being questioned. He sees sentence language as securing the legal right to reproductive freedom, which is not clearly defined.
“How can you not say, ‘Well, this law that says parental notification still applies,’ when there’s such broad language in the sentence?” – said Becker.
Washtenaw County State’s Attorney Eli Savitt, a Democrat, argued that there was nothing in the ballot language that would limit the prosecution of non-abortion crimes.
“There is absolutely nothing in Proposition 3 that makes it harder for us to prosecute sexual assault, statutory rape. This in no way speaks about these problems,” Savit said. “The only thing Proposition 3 makes more difficult to prosecute is Michigan’s old 1931 anti-abortion law, which of course was superseded by Proposition 3.”
Savitt said the proposal does leave the door open for the Legislature to change laws covering what happens after a fetus is deemed viable by doctors, along with medical safety regulations.
“I could see some legislation clarifying some health and safety standards that would ensure that abortions are not only safe, but also accessible,” he said.
But, according to him, it has nothing to do with the criminal prosecution.
“There are criminal laws and there are non-criminal laws and I really want to reassure people that the criminal laws that we have around the age of consent and statutory rape and things like that are not affected by Proposition 3 and that’s just not the case if you you hear otherwise, it’s just categorically wrong,” said Savit.