Mike Rogers tries to distance Senate campaign from his anti-abortion record

Former US Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) speaks at a conference on March 18 in South Carolina. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard, File)

By Kyle Kaminski

October 19, 2023

Former US Rep. Mike Rogers says he won’t try to roll back abortion rights if elected to Michigan’s open Senate seat in 2024—but his record of opposing reproductive freedom while he was in Congress suggests otherwise.

MICHIGAN—Former Republican US Rep. Mike Rogers hopes he can win an open US Senate seat in Michigan that Democrats have held for over two decades. And about two months into his campaign, Rogers appears to have deployed a new strategy for winning over Michigan voters:

Hoping Michiganders forget about his 14 years in Congress, and the decades that Rogers spent railing against reproductive rights and lobbying for a nationwide abortion ban.

During a restaurant campaign stop in Dewitt last month, Rogers reportedly pledged not to support national proposals to restrict abortion that are “inconsistent with Michigan’s law”—including a constitutional amendment that broadly protects abortion access in the state.

“The people of Michigan have voted,” Rogers reportedly told diners. “Abortion is legal in Michigan. And they have enshrined it in the … state of Michigan Constitution. Will I go to Washington, D.C., and try to undo what the citizens of Michigan voted for? I will not.”

But Rogers didn’t tell diners at the restaurant why they should believe his newfound stance on reproductive rights, particularly after he spent much of his career trying to rip those rights away.

Need a refresher?

Here’s a quick overview:

Rogers has long made clear that he opposes reproductive freedom in Michigan—including voicing support for a near-total abortion ban in response to an MLive candidate survey in 2010, where he clearly stated “abortions should be legal only to prevent the death of the mother.”

More recently, after Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to abortion care was overturned last year, Rogers reportedly told the Daily Mining Gazette that he supported the decision—and vowed to back additional restrictions to care, such as a “full ban on federal funding for abortion.”

And had he lived in Michigan instead of Florida last year, Rogers told reporters that he would’ve voted against Proposal 3 to cement the right to reproductive freedom—including abortion care—into the state Constitution, which passed with about 56% of the vote last year.

Rogers also told voters at a town hall event in New Hampshire this summer that he has “been a pro-life candidate my entire career.” And when asked specifically about whether he would support a national abortion ban if elected to Congress, he replied: “I’d have to look at it.”

His congressional record is also littered with votes for anti-abortion bills.

In 2012, Rogers voted for a bill that would’ve banned most abortions (without exceptions for rape or incest) in Washington, D.C. And about one year later, he co-sponsored legislation with US Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) that sought to ban and criminalize abortions across the country.

That legislation never made it to a vote, but Rogers later voted in support of another anti-abortion bill in 2013 that aimed to ban abortions after 20 weeks, with limited exceptions. That bill passed the US House, but never ended up passing through the US Senate.

During his time in Congress, Rogers also voted for other anti-abortion bills—including legislation to force patients to receive a misinformation-filled “Unborn Child Pain Awareness Brochure” before getting an abortion.

Rogers’ record on opposing reproductive freedom was enough to earn him a nearly flawless candidate score from The Family Research Council, which is designated as an extremist, anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and masquerades as an “educational organization” in an attempt to steer voters toward anti-abortion candidates.

Road to 2024

Rogers’ campaign announcement in September shook up a US Senate race that had been relatively quiet and otherwise dominated by Democratic candidates—including US Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who announced her campaign for the seat in February and is considered the frontrunner.

The GOP has not won a Senate race in Michigan since 1994, and Rogers’ candidacy was seen as a recruiting victory for Republicans.

In recent weeks, Rogers has ramped up his effort to pick up support among Michigan’s far-right Republicans—including by defending the conduct of former President Donald Trump, who is facing 91 state and federal felony charges in four jurisdictions for a variety of alleged crimes.

An Army veteran and former FBI agent, Rogers was elected to Congress in 2000 and served seven terms in the House, the last two as chair of the committee that oversees US intelligence agencies. He left office in 2015 and served briefly on Trump’s transition team as an adviser.

Rogers, 60, is among five Republicans to enter the race thus far, joining candidates including former Detroit Police Chief James Craig and state Board of Education member Nikki Snyder. Former US Rep. Peter Meijer is also reportedly considering launching a campaign for the seat.

Defending the Michigan seat may prove crucial for Democrats, who hold a slim, 51-49 majority in the Senate and face tough headwinds as they defend seats in Republican-leaning states. The primary election is Aug. 6, 2024 and the general election will be held on Nov. 5, 2024.

Like Rogers, other Republicans are also taking a somewhat tactical retreat from their previous opposition to abortion access. Kari Lake, for example, campaigned for governor of Arizona last year as a fierce ally of Trump who was in lock step with her party’s right-wing base, calling abortion the “ultimate sin” and supporting the state’s Civil War-era restrictions on the procedure.

This week, she made a jarring shift on the issue as she opened her bid for the US Senate: She declared her opposition to a national ban, reports the New York Times.

For the latest Michigan news, follow The ‘Gander on Twitter.

Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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