Michigan runs ads in abortion-restrictive states touting reproductive rights

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the crowd during inauguration ceremonies, Jan. 1, 2023, outside the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich.

Michigan’s Economic Development Corporation is running targeted ads in six Republican-led states with the promise of recruiting new talent and offering a “business-friendly environment that also protects people’s rights and freedoms.”

The $30,000 digital ad campaign launched in early August. According to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the digital ads are being deployed in South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Texas, Georgia, and Tennessee, with possibly more to come.

Robert Leddy, Whitmer’s director of communications, told HuffPost the six states were chosen because they “have taken action to restrict people’s rights, or have legislation currently in the works, or have talked about doing so.”

Messaging on the three ads includes a photo of Tammy and Sharon McBash, a married lesbian couple, enjoying a day on the Kalamazoo River.

“I think it’s excellent,” Tammy McBash told WZZM. “It shows that families can be anything.”

One of three targeted ads in Republican states created by Michigan’s Economic Development Corporation.

Another ad shows a Black family holding hands, with the words “Enjoy the freedom to be who you are” next to them, and a third ad has a photo of three young women walking together on a college campus with the words “Enjoy your right to reproductive freedom” next to the image.

“These digital ads are a response to feedback we are constantly hearing from companies that are considering where to invest. Among the factors they consider is access to talent and the ability to recruit new talent,” Otie McKinley, a spokesperson for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, told the American Independent Foundation in an email.

Efforts like this are part of a concerted effort to attract talent and business to Michigan by highlighting a business-friendly environment that also protects people’s rights and freedoms. These digital ads in target markets promote people and personal rights here in Michigan while highlighting attributes of living, working, and thriving in Michigan.

In 2022, Michigan’s state government flipped to Democratic control for the first time in 40 years, with a majority in the Michigan Supreme Court, as well as control of the governor’s office, the Senate, and the House.

MEDC rolled out the ad campaign just as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer began to focus on increasing the state’s population.

A May 2023 census review found that Michigan was one of 19 states in the nation that experienced a population decline from 2020 to 2022.

One of three targeted ads in Republican states created by Michigan’s Economic Development Corporation.
One of three targeted ads in Republican states created by Michigan’s Economic Development Corporation.

In June, Whitmer introduced the Growing Michigan Together Council, tapping former U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates John Rakolta Jr., a Republican, and Shirley Stancato, a Democrat and member of the Wayne State Board of Governors, to lead the initiative.

“People want to create homes in places where they know that their leaders and laws align with their values,” Whitmer said, according to Michigan Live. “While other states ignite divisive culture wars that drive people out, I’m staying focused on lowering costs for families, creating jobs and investing and expanding rights and protections to bring more people in.”

In April, the governor signed legislation repealing the 1931 abortion law. Still, the state has several patient restrictions — 24-hour required counseling with a physician, parental consent for minors, and abortion care is not covered for patients using Medicaid.

Whitmer announced efforts in late August to pass S.B. 732, also known as the Reproductive Health Act, which would repeal the 24-hour waiting period, and “Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers,” or laws that focus on clinicians who provide abortion care.

In May, she signed S.B. 0174, a law protecting the LGBTQ community from discrimination in housing and employment.

When the ads launched, Whitmer wrote on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter:

“I wasn’t kidding when I said bigotry is bad for business. If you live in a state trying to restrict your rights and freedoms, move to Michigan.”

One of three targeted ads in Republican states created by Michigan’s Economic Development Corporation.

Republican lawmakers have voiced their outrage about the Michigan ads.

“If the State of Michigan believes wasting taxpayer dollars on bragging about their disregard for life is an effective tool to attract workers to their state, they’ll be in for quite the surprise,” a spokesperson for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said.

Michigan Republican Sen. Thomas Albert, said:

“The state of Michigan’s marketing efforts reached a new low with this campaign suggesting people should move here to ‘enjoy your right to reproductive freedom.’ It is ignorant at best and evil at worst.”

According to a Gallup poll taken in July, most Americans agree that abortion care should be legal at least until the end of the first trimester or the first three months of pregnancy.

Michigan law allows abortion care at up to 24 to 26 weeks of pregnancy.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.