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Roe overturned: See where Michigan governor, attorney general candidates stand

LANSING — The prospect of criminalized abortion in Michigan is no longer a hypothetical, upending the dynamics of the state’s fall elections overnight.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe v. Wade, calcifying long-standing political divides in Michigan: Democrats are working to protect abortion access, while Republicans are cheering that abortion would again be a felony if Roe is overturned because of a dormant 1931 state law criminalizing the procedure.

The law has been suspended by a Court of Claims judge, but it is under appeal. 

Efforts by Democrats to repeal the law are a nonstarter in the Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans. A ballot measure instead is collecting signatures to force a statewide vote this fall to enshrine abortion access into the state constitution.  

Related:

In a video call with reporters this spring, Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel said abortion will be a key issue this fall. 

Voters, she said, will have to “pick a side.”

All major GOP candidates running for attorney general and secretary of state say they support the 1931 law that deems abortion a four-year felony "unless … necessary to preserve the life of such woman.”

The law does not provide an exception for rape or incest, and also makes it a misdemeanor to sell or advertise abortion-inducing drugs. The law was suspended by a Court of Claims judge recently, but an appeal is ongoing and court fights are inevitable.

Here’s a look at where statewide candidates stand and what they have said about abortion.

Gubernatorial candidates

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Whitmer has lobbied for the state Legislature to pass bills repealing the 1931 abortion law and recently filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn it.

In May, Whitmer said she would “never stop fighting like hell to protect every Michiganders right to choose.” 

Whitmer has rebuffed efforts by Republicans to further limit abortion access and during the last budget cycle vetoed funding tied to anti-abortion initiatives.

“Today is a sad day for America as an unelected group of conservative judges act squarely against the will of the people and medical expertise," Whitmer said in a statement Friday. 

“I want every Michigander to know that I am more determined than ever to protect access to safe, legal abortion. Now is the time to use every tool in our toolbox to protect women and reproductive health care."

Republicans

Tudor Dixon

The former sales executive and conservative media personality said she supports the 1931 abortion law. 

She claimed advocates for abortion access will “weaponize the topic of abortion to further divide us,” and offered a message to women facing motherhood.

“We are with you. You can do it,” her statement read. “It may be hard. It may even be an awful circumstance. But I promise you this, the deepest love you have ever felt will come over you when that baby wraps its little hand around your finger, knowing you are mom.”

Ryan Kelley

In a statement on his website, the former Allendale Township planning commissioner said he supports life “from the womb to the tomb” and claimed science and data explicitly prove that life begins at conception. 

Ralph Rebandt

The Farmington Hills pastor said he would support the existing anti-abortion law on the books, praising it for being among the strictest in the country. 

He criticized Whitmer’s comments on the issue, noting that “she hasn’t met the fury of God on this issue — she’s about to in November though when she’s replaced by someone who represents Him.”

Kevin Rinke

The Bloomfield Township businessman has said he would support the 1931 ban.  

He said he believed the Supreme Court acted properly “by letting the people of Michigan make their own decision.” 

"The Supreme Court acted appropriately by letting the people of Michigan make their own decision. I have always believed this should be a state's rights issue. Even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was openly critical of how the Court handled the decision decades ago. As governor, I will ensure that Michigan is a state that respects the sanctity of life." 

Garrett Soldano 

The Kalamazoo-area chiropractor has said he would support the state’s 1931 ban. In January, he said the unborn need to be protected and society needs to do a better job encouraging women who become pregnant through rape.

“God put them in the moment. That little baby inside of them may be the next president,” he said during an interview.

In a social media post following the leaked opinion, Soldano wrote, “Life is winning!” 

Attorney general 

Incumbent Dana Nessel, Democrat

Nessel has said she would not enforce the existing ban in Michigan law.

“Americans will lose a fundamental right they’ve had for nearly my entire lifetime,” Nessel, a Democrat, said in a statement, reiterating her pledge to not enforce Michigan’s old abortion ban if it is eventually reinstated. 

“I will not use the resources of the attorney general’s office to enforce an unconstitutional law that will allow the state into our bedrooms and doctor’s appointments, interfering with our fundamental reproductive rights,” Nessel said. 

Matthew DePerno

DePerno said he would enforce the 1931 ban if Roe is overturned. During a recent forum, he called the 1972 ruling that made abortion legal nationwide “complete and total nonsense” 

He opposes exceptions to a ban, which can include an abortion to save the mother’s life or in cases of pregnancies caused by rape or incest.  In May, he questioned whether there were instances in which a mother's life would be in danger from a viable pregnancy.

“Real conservatives… understand that life begins at conception,” he has said.

On Friday, he said he was "thrilled" Roe is overturned.

"It is deeply troubling that Dana Nessel pledged to not enforce the opinion of the Supreme Court even before their announcement this morning," he said in a statement. "We cannot have an attorney general who believes she is better than the Supreme Court and the law."

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