Election Guide: Where Do Michigan’s Candidates Stand on Reproductive Freedom?

By Hope O'Dell
July 28, 2022

MICHIGAN—Abortion access has become a top election issue for many Michigan voters following the US Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Candidates for governor and attorney general on both sides of the aisle have voiced strong feelings on the issue while a key court battle continues. A ballot initiative headed to the polls in November could enshrine reproductive rights into the state Constitution.

In other words, there’s a lot at stake this year when it comes to reproductive rights in Michigan. Here’s an overview of what the candidates are saying, a key ballot initiative headed to the polls in November, and some other essential things you should know as you prepare to cast your vote on Nov. 8:

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Attorney General

Since abortion access is no longer federally protected after Roe‘s demise, Michigan is at risk reverting back to a restrictive abortion ban under a 1931 state law that prohibits the procedure except to protect the life of the mother. Although a judge’s injunction has kept that ban at bay, this law—if put into effect— would enable county prosectors to choose whether or not to prosecute providers who offer abortions.

The attorney general doesn’t have the power to prevent individual local prosecutors from enforcing the law if it were to roll back onto the books in Michigan, but they can step in to prosecute cases where the ban isn’t being enforced. In short, this means that whoever serves as the attorney general over the next four years could greatly impact how strictly the laws on reproductive rights are enforced in Michigan.


Dana Nessel

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (AP Photo/Paul Sancya File)
  • Said she would not enforce the 1931 ban if it again becomes law in Michigan
  • Would recommend other local prosecutors do that same if the ban goes back into effect, but ultimately concedes that she couldn’t force individual county prosecutors to ignore the law
  • Said she would leave it up to county prosecutors to decide whether to enforce the ban in their counties
  • Alerted Michigan residents who use menstrual tracking apps that the information stored in those apps could be used against them in court if abortion were to again become illegal in Michigan

“I will not prosecute women, girls, or their doctors for seeking or providing abortion services. Nor will my staff seek licensure discipline against medical professionals who safely perform these procedures.” (WWMT, June 24, 2022) 


Matthew DePerno 

Matthew DePerno speaks at a rally hosted by former President Donald Trump. (Olson/Getty Images)
  • Said he would enforce the 1931 ban if it becomes law—and this could include stepping in to press criminal charges in areas where local prosecutors refuse to prosecute abortion-related cases
  • Doesn’t support allowing abortions in cases of rape or incest
  • Supports allowing abortions to save the life of the mother—though, in the past has said there should be no exceptions 


Since Roe v. Wade‘s overturn, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued two executive orders to expand abortion access and vetoed items in the budget that would have given money to pregnancy centers that often encourage women to give birth rather than pursue abortions. While governors cannot unilaterally codify abortion access into law like the state Legislature, they can appoint judges, ask state courts to take action on the issue and wield executive powers that could help shape abortion access in Michigan.


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has vowed to “fight like hell” for abortion access in Michigan. (Courtesy/Governor Gretchen Whitmer via Facebook)
  • Filed a lawsuit and asked the Michigan Supreme Court to recognize abortion as a constitutional right
  • Signed an executive directive where she directed: 
    • Departments and agencies to review where they could step in to increase protections for reproductive healthcare and take those steps, including: 
      • Ensuring care for those who have miscarriages
      • Safeguarding the privacy of those who seek health care 
      • Help protect reproductive health care providers 
      • Provide comprehensive information on the cost and availability of reproductive health care 
      • Adopt measures to increase public awareness about the availability and safety of contraception
      • Departments and agencies with enforcement responsibilities must decline to cooperate with or assist the authorities of any state in any investigation 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
  • Signed an executive order protecting those who travel to Michigan to provide, assist or receive an abortion from extradition.


Tudor Dixon 

Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon stands next to former President Donald Trump. (Tudor Dixon via Facebook)
  • Supports the 1931 ban
  • In fall of 2021, Dixon was against any exceptions for a statewide abortion ban—including for rape, incest or to protect the health of the mother. After Roe was overturned, she changed her stance and said she supports an exception on a statewide abortion ban to save the life of the mother. 
  • Disagrees with most Michiganders on the topic of abortion access—and has made clear that she doesn’t think abortions should be allowed in cases where children are raped by family members
  • Claims that Planned Parenthood supports sex education in Michigan schools as a “business model” to increase demand for abortion—even though a Michigan law prohibits sex education programs from talking about abortion as a form of reproductive health
  • Endorsed by Right to Life of Michigan

“I am a pro-life candidate, no exceptions.” (Sept. 27, 2021, MIRS Monday Podcast

“I’m very pro-life, but I do have exceptions for life of the mother.” (May 6, 2022, the Guy Gordon Show)

Ballot Measures

Michigan Right to Reproductive Freedom

  • What It Is: A constitutional amendment that would give Michigan residents a state constitutional right to reproductive freedom, or “the right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy, including but not limited to prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion care, miscarriage management, and infertility care.” The state would only be able to regulate abortion after the fetus is viable, but the state could not ban abortion that would be done to protect the life of the mother.  
  • Who’s Behind It: ACLU of Michigan, Michigan Voices and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan
  • What’s at Stake: If this doesn’t pass, then the next hope is for the Legislature to codify abortion access into law or to bet on court proceedings eventually nullifying the state’s abortion ban. There may be other avenues for pro-choice advocates, but a constitutional amendment could offer one of the most concrete protections.


The Basics

  • Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 and gave Americans the right to an abortion—and it was overturned on June 24, leaving the legality of abortions up to the states. 
  • President Joe Biden signed an executive order seeking to protect those who travel out-of-state to receive an abortion, along with other things, like contraception access. 
  • The US House voted to restore abortion rights, though it isn’t likely to pass in the Senate. 
  • Approximately 930,160 abortions were performed in 2020, down almost 29% from 2000.


  • 12 states either have a complete abortion ban or ban abortion after six weeks—even though 33% of people do not learn they are pregnant until after six weeks.
  • Four states have bans that are expected to take effect soon.
  • 33 million women of childbearing age live in states with existing or anticipated abortion bans.
  • People in these states will have to travel an average total of 552 miles to access an abortion.

Medical Necessity

  • Abortion can be medically necessary to save the life of the pregnant person.
  • Many of the abortion bans on the books include an exception to save the life of the mother, but the provisions are so vague that doctors will often not terminate the pregnancy for fear of prosecution.
  • The Idaho Republican party rejected amending their stance on abortion to include an exception to save the life of the mother. 


  • Approximately 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages.
  • Prosecuting pregnancy loss isn’t new, but Roe’s overturn will make it more common.
  • Doctors may deny or postpone treatment for a miscarriage for fear of prosecution.
  • John Seago, the president of Texas Right to Life, acknowledged that abortion bans may cause doctors to delay care for miscarriage patients until complications arise.

“Late Term” Abortions

“Late term” abortion typically refers to abortions obtained at or after 21 weeks, but is not an accepted medical term because it implies abortions are occuring after pregnancy has reached “term” at 37 weeks—which is not the case. 

  • 91% of abortions happen at or before 13 weeks.
  • 1.2% are performed at or after 21 weeks.
  • People seek abortions later in their pregnancy for two main reasons:
    • They learned new information, either about the health of the fetus or how the pregnancy could harm them
    • Barriers to abortion access in their state that prevented them from getting one earlier


Statewide Statistics

  • Michigan has 27 abortion providers, a 10% decrease from 2017.
  • There are abortion clinics in 13 of 83 Michigan counties.
  • 53% of Michiganders oppose Roe v. Wade’s overturn.
  • 57% are motivated to vote by the issue of abortion.
  • 58% support efforts to repeal the 1931 state ban on abortion with no exceptions for incest and rape, only to save the life of the mother—although what this means is murky, according to experts.

1931 Law

  • Michigan has a 1931 law on the books that would ban abortion except for the life of the mother. 
  • If the law becomes active, prosecutors can bring felony manslaughter charges against abortion providers.
  • Enforcement was suspended in May by Michigan Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher.
  • There are two active lawsuits challenging the abortion ban: 
    • One was filed by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, which led to the injunction. 
    • The other was filed by Whitmer and seeks a state Supreme Court interpretation.


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