Potential GOP Senate candidates in Michigan would all threaten reproductive rights - TAI News
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Josh Israel

Michigan voters enshrined abortion rights in their state Constitution, but Republicans hope to reverse those protections with a federal ban.

Last November, Michigan voters passed an amendment to their state Constitution, by a 56.7%-43.3% margin, that protected abortion rights. Now, as Republican lawmakers push for a federal abortion ban that could overrule those protections, several people who have previously backed such bans are reportedly considering running for a Michigan U.S. Senate seat in 2024.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling, which obliterated the nearly 50-year-old Roe v. Wadedecision’s guarantee of abortion rights, though pollsters and Republican leaders forecasted GOP victories, Democrats unexpectedly gained one seat in the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections. Many analysts attributed the lack of a predicted “red wave” of GOP gains to voter anger over the ruling and the fact that the Republican nominees in key states all wanted to ban abortion.

Now national Republicans say they are hoping to find more electable nominees in their effort to win back the Senate majority in 2024. “We do have the possibility of screwing this up and that gets back to candidate recruitment,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told CNN in May.

With Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow retiring after the current term, experts predict the race for her open seat in Michigan will be competitive. So far, just one prominent Republican, State Board of Education member and registered nurse Nikki Snyder, has announced that she is running.

In an unsuccessful 2020 House campaign, Snyder reportedly spoke out against abortion rights and complained that she had been bullied in a previous job for refusing to assist with the procedure. In a May 2023 interview on CBS News Detroit, she acknowledged that voters had spoken “very decisively” in the 2022 constitutional amendment referendum, but said, “I want to walk alongside moms and parents as they choose life.”

At least nine other prominent Republicans are reportedly also consideringrunning for the seat, almost all of them on the record backing abortion bans.

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who was kicked off of the ballot in the 2022 Republican gubernatorial primary over fraudulent signatures on his nominating petitions, said at a September 2021 campaign event that he would block any attempts to overturn a 1931 state law banning abortion, explaining, “I will do whatever I can — I’m pro-life.”

“James Craig is unapologetically pro-life and opposes liberal efforts for abortion on demand, late term abortions, and partial birth abortions,” his campaign reiterated in a press statement days later.

Republican 2022 gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon said during her campaign that she backed an abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest, except when a woman’s life is at risk. “That’s where I’m solid,” she told the “No BS Newshour” podcast. “A life is a life for me. That’s how it is. That is for me, that’s my feeling.”

Asked in a follow-up interview with Fox 2 Detroit why a 14-year-old rape victim should not be able to choose an abortion, Dixon answered, “I’ve talked to those people who were the child of a rape victim and the bond that those two people made, and the fact that out of that tragedy, there was healing through that baby, it’s something that we don’t think about.”

Rep. Bill Huizenga’s official congressional website states: “Congressman Huizenga’s commitment to life has not wavered. He has continued to be a tireless voice for unborn children and work to ensure that these precious lives are protected.” He received an “A+” rating from SBA Pro-Life America for each of the past two Congresses, indicating full support of the group’s anti-abortion rights agenda.

In 2021, Huizenga co-sponsored the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill that would have banned abortions nationally as early as 15 weeks into a pregnancy, based on a debunked claim that fetuses can feel pain at that point.

State Sen. Ruth Johnson, who previously served as Michigan’s secretary of state, co-sponsored a state “pain capable” abortion ban in 2019.

Rep. Lisa McClain says on her campaign website: “I am 100% pro-life. I believe in the sanctity of human life and that life begins at conception. We must honor the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence — which is a right to life. An unborn child has a fundamental right to life, which cannot be infringed.” She received an “A+” SBA Pro-Life America rating for her first term in Congress and joined Huizenga as a co-sponsor of the 2021 bill.

On his campaign issues page, former Rep. Pete Meijer says, “I am 100% pro-life and will defend Life from conception to natural death.” After the Dobbs decision, he said, “I have long maintained that our nation’s laws and policies should reflect a commitment to the sanctity of human life at every stage, and this ruling is a tremendous step toward upholding this crucial moral responsibility.” Meijer received an “A” rating from SBA Pro-Life America for his term in Congress.

Kevin Rinke, a business executive and unsuccessful 2022 gubernatorial candidate, tweeted after the June 2022 Dobbs ruling: “SCOTUS 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.”

Former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers said at a May town hall event in New Hampshire, “I’ve been a pro-life candidate my entire career.” While he suggested the issue should likely be left to the states, asked if he would rule out supporting a national ban, he replied, “I’d have to look at it.” Rogers voted for a federal 20-week ban in 2013.

According to the Michigan Democratic Party, Rinke vowed in a January 2022 radio interview to enforce Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban if he had the chance: “If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, what falls back is the state constitution which happens to prohibit abortion. And if that’s the law of the land, then as governor, I’m going to enforce that law of the land.”

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines has also encouraged John Tuttle, the vice chair of the New York Stock Exchange and a resident of New York City as of last September, to run for the seat. Tuttle does not appear to have taken a public position on an abortion ban.

In an email, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes told the American Independent Foundation:

Republicans are dead set on attacking reproductive freedom, and voters made it clear in November that no matter the candidate, they will reject the GOP’s efforts to turn back the clock. Meanwhile, Michigan Democrats have used their new trifecta to take action and expand abortion rights, setting a model for the rest of the country. If any of these candidates throw their hat in the ring in 2024, voters won’t be fooled – it is more clear than ever that there is only one party protecting our most fundamental freedoms.

A June 2023 survey by the polling firm GQR of voters in Michigan and six other Senate battleground states, commissioned by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, found 65% support for abortion being legal in most or all cases.

report called “Abortion Attitudes in a Post-Roe World: Findings From the 50-State 2022 American Values Atlas,” produced by the nonprofit research organization PRRI, found that 66% of Michigan residents support legal abortion in all or most situations.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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