LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Supreme Court sided with pro-choice groups today and ruled that a ban on state-funded abortions for poor women won't take effect until next spring.
In a 5-1 decision, the justices ruled that the ban needed a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the Legislature to take effect immediately.
The Senate approved the initiative 30 to 6 on June 17, and the House passed it 66 to 41 on June 23. Anti-abortion forces, who lacked sufficient votes in the House, had argued that a two-thirds vote was not necessary because the legislation was generated by voter initiative.
However, the high court noted that the Michigan Constitution allowed no exceptions to the requirement, even for legislation put forward by a petition drive.
Right to Life of Michigan, which wrote the new law, contended that it should have gone into effect in June, immediately after it was approved by the House and Senate.
A pro-choice coalition, the People's Campaign for Choice, contended that the Constitution didn't allow the law to take immediate effect and that it should go into effect 90 days after the end of the current legislative session, or about April 1.
Michigan is one of 14 states that pays for poor women's abortions.
State lawmakers have voted to stop the practice 17 times since 1978. But Democratic Gov. James J. Blanchard and his Republican predecessor, William Milliken, used their veto power each time to keep the payments continuing.
The new law, which bans Medicaid-funded abortions unless necessary to save a woman's life, eluded a veto because it began as a petition drive.
Last year, Michigan paid about $5.8 million for 18,600 Medicaid abortions.