Whitmer: Reproductive rights still ‘in jeopardy’ in Michigan

By Kyle Kaminski

May 1, 2024

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is urging Michiganders to re-elect President Joe Biden in November—or else risk losing access to reproductive healthcare under Trump.

MICHIGAN—Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has a warning for Michiganders ahead of the presidential election—particularly for women and families who might be getting comfortable with a recent amendment to the state constitution that protects their right to access abortion care statewide.

“This is still very much a precarious moment,” Whitmer said this week. “Our rights could be rolled back—not just the right to access abortion when we need it, but the right to access contraception, and the right to create a family through [in-vitro fertilization] and other means.”

“Even in states like Michigan, we cannot make any assumption that the rights that we enshrined in our [State] Constitution just a year and a half ago will last another Trump term,” she added.

Whitmer offered those words of caution during a roundtable discussion with a group of Michigan women and reproductive rights activists who gathered at a coffee shop in Flint on Wednesday.

The conversation centered largely on the looming possibility that ex-President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers would enact a nationwide abortion ban if they’re able to regain control of the federal government.

According to Whitmer, that means Michiganders have a clear choice to make in November.

“The mess that we’re seeing women in other states confronting? That could very well be back here in Michigan if we don’t re-elect President Biden and Vice President Harris,” Whitmer said. “So, any vote short of an affirmative vote for the Harris-Biden agenda puts all of this back into jeopardy, and that’s why we all still need to be a part of this conversation and use our voices.”

Here’s the deal:

After Roe and the nationwide constitutional right to abortion was overturned in the summer of 2022, Michiganders quickly filled the void—including passing a ballot initiative that added abortion rights to the state constitution and state legislation that expanded access to care.

And with President Joe Biden in the White House, Whitmer behind the governor’s desk, and Democrats in charge of the US Senate and both chambers of the Michigan legislature, Michiganders’ reproductive rights have never been more protected than they are today.

But if Trump and anti-abortion Republicans manage to take control of the federal government in 2025, it could lead to sweeping, nationwide restrictions on abortion—even in Michigan where those rights are protected, Whitmer repeatedly warned during the roundtable discussion.

“This is so crucial that we keep having these hard conversations,” Whitmer said. “As governor, I’m proud of the strides we’ve made here in Michigan. But I’m sober about how precarious this truly is. What women are going through in other states could very well become our reality, too.”

‘Very Much in Jeopardy’

Trump has repeatedly bragged about his role in the US Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe. And since the repeal, Republicans have repeatedly sought to pass nationwide and state-level abortion bans—including a six-week abortion ban that officially took effect in Florida this week.

Whitmer characterized Florida’s abortion ban as “incredibly cruel and ill-informed,” and also cautioned that Republicans are planning to continue attacking reproductive rights nationwide.

“This is all very much in jeopardy, even in states like Michigan,” Whitmer said. “We cannot make any assumption that the rights we enshrined in our constitution will last another Trump term.”

This week, in an interview with Time, Trump essentially endorsed the concept of individual states being able to prosecute women who have abortions, as well as the doctors who perform them. He also refused to rule out signing a national abortion ban, as well as legislation that would threaten to restrict or ban access to medication abortion, fertility care, and contraception.

“You cannot trust anything that Donald Trump says when it comes to a woman’s ability to make decisions about her body,” Whitmer said. “He won’t give you a straight answer. In every interview, he says something a little different. His position has evolved 15 times in 15 months.”

‘Clear Threat to Human Rights’

Advocates on Wednesday also warned Michiganders about an expansive blueprint from a group of Trump-aligned conservative organizations and activists—known as Project 2025—that lays out (in detail) how Republicans intend to leverage the federal government to attack abortion access nationwide.

Dr. Aisha Harris, a family medicine physician, said that many of her patients are fearful of the lingering uncertainty over their reproductive rights. She also warned that patients in states that have outlawed abortion will continue to seek them—sometimes at the risk of their own health.

“When people don’t have really good access, people get desperate. When people get desperate, they do unsafe things,” Harris added. “It might not be in the sunshine and out in the open, but people are still going to get [abortions] done and it’s not going to be pretty.”

Some anti-abortion groups have also signaled they also intend to push for Republicans to revive enforcement of the Comstock Act of 1873, which bans the mailing of “anything designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion,” as a way to ban medication abortion nationwide.

Read broadly, the Comstock Act could be used to not only ban medication abortion, but block shipments of medical supplies used in clinics and lead to outright abortion bans in all 50 states.

Michigan military veteran Jessica Romanosky said the overturning of Roe got her motivated to fight for her rights. But Trump’s direct role in making it happen was her queue to “fight like hell.”

Her message to other Michigan women? Join me.

“Because we have to. Nobody else is going to save us,” she said. “You have to look at who is for the people and who is not. We have somebody who is a clear threat to our democracy and a clear threat to human rights. And Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are for us—women, but also everybody. They focus on all of our rights, not just reproductive rights but so many other things.”

The presidential election is Nov. 5. Absentee ballots will be available starting on Sept. 26. Click here to check online and ensure you’re registered to vote, or to get registered for the first time.

READ MORE: Why you should care about this year’s Michigan Supreme Court election

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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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