Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) is backtracking after pro-life Michiganders filed a lawsuit against her and the Detroit Police Department.
On March 31, a group of pro-life activists led by Andrew Belanger were holding signs outside the Scotsdale Women’s Center when at least eight police officers showed up at the abortion clinic to threaten the peaceful demonstrators with jail time if they didn’t leave.
The Detroit officers claimed the activists were violating Whitmer’s stay-at-home order put in place to blunt the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Michigan — like many other states — has deemed abortion an essential service. While being outside is not a crime, though, the police officers explained to the pro-lifers that their demonstration at the clinic was not essential.
During his interaction with the police, one activist asked if he could pray for the officers. Three of them walked away, but two appeared to bow their heads. Eventually, the officers left, after handing out tickets to the pro-life activists.
But one week after the altercation, Whitmer had a change of heart.
On April 3, Whitmer stood by the officers’ citations, explaining she was “confident that these actions are lawful and necessary to protect the health and safety of Michiganders during this unprecedented public health emergency,” according to The Detroit News. By early last week, though, her opinion had changed. On Tuesday, Whitmer’s office clarified that “persons may engage in expressive activities” as long as they practice social distancing.
The addendum “made clear what was always the case: that the constitutional protections remain in place and the governor is fully committed to protecting them,” said Tiffany Brown, a spokesperson for Whitmer.
What else is going on?
Last week, the Democratic governor also ordered Michigan residents to remain in their houses and stop traveling between residences — even if only to see family members. The strict order, in place until at least May 1, permits Michiganders to leave their homes and go to other houses only if it is to provide medical assistance to a relative or elderly friend, the Detroit Free Press reported.
The expansive order furthermore prohibits gatherings “of any size.” Additionally, Whitmer’s order bans stores from opening their garden sections — a bizarre overreach greenhouse and nursery workers see as a government prohibition on the sale of fruit and vegetable plants.
“Banning fruit and vegetable plants does not help limit the spread of COVID-19,” Callie Gafner, who works at a small garden center, told Michigan Radio. “If you’re growing them yourself, you’re reducing the contact between people because you’re not going anywhere. You’re going out in your own garden and picking them up rather than going into the store and coming into contact with how many people?”
The state’s Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield is not pleased with the way Whitmer has handled the pandemic.
There is currently a petition to recall Whitmer online. So far, the petition has garnered more than 160,000 signatures. The petition, though, has no legal power, as recalling the governor requires the signatures of 25% of the votes cast for governor to trigger a recall election.