Gretchen Whitmer Is Fighting for Abortion Rights. Other Dems, Take Note.

Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court on June 24, handing the question of abortion rights to each individual state. Already, eleven states have passed laws making abortion illegal, and more are expected. Several of those laws have been blocked by lawsuits from places like the Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU, but it’s likely that abortion will go on to be illegal in many states, often without exceptions for incest or rape. And yet, it feels like most pro-choice politicians just aren’t doing enough. Every leader who cares about human rights should be devoting themselves to this emergency.

Lawyers and activists and healthcare professionals and abortion clinic employees and abortion fund organizers are working overtime. Meanwhile democrats who were elected on promises to defend reproductive rights keep talking about voting, as if the November election is much help to a person who is currently pregnant and unable to access abortion.

The same cannot be said of Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan. Her actions in response to Roe’s fall have had immediate effect. They also exemplify why people who care about abortion rights should focus on the 36 races for governor coming up in the 2022 election. Whitmer is up for reelection, and other strong pro-choice politicians including Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Katie Hobbs in Arizona are in races that are likely to be close. (Whitmer’s her top-polling opponent is Ryan Kelley, who not only supports criminalizing abortion but was also arrested by the FBI this week in connection to the January sixth coup attempt.)

“I’m heartbroken. I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut,” Whitmer tells Glamour of the court’s decision. “As a sexual assault survivor, the thought that my state now is posed to revert to a law from 1931 that makes it a felony, no exceptions for rape, no exceptions for incest, that my daughters now have fewer rights than I’ve had my whole life—I’m furious, and that’s why I’m fighting like hell.”

That’s right—1931. When people talk about the end of Roe v. Wade, which was overturned by the Supreme Court on June 24, they speak about the days before the 1973 ruling when getting an abortion was illegal and often dangerous. But in Michigan, a 1931 law made performing an abortion except to save the life of the pregnant person is a felony, with no exception for rape or incest. It also criminalized the distribution of abortion pills. That law became unconstitutional after Roe, but it stayed on the books. Now that Roe has fallen, Michigan’s Republican legislators are trying to bring it back into effect. “Abortion is still safe and legal in Michigan,” Whitmer stresses. That could change. And a bill from Michigan republicans would give the forced-pregnancy movement even more power, including “Throwing nurses in jail for ten years,” Whitmer says flatly.

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