Michigan Gubernatorial Candidate Vows to ‘Hold the Line’ Against Anti-Choice Onslaught

"Reproductive rights [are] about having full ability to make your own determination as an American citizen,” Democratic candidate Gretchen Whitmer told Rewire. "It’s about liberty. It’s about freedom.”

Gretchen Whitmer, candidate in Michigan's Democratic primary for governor, speaks to the crowd during the Women’s Convention in Detroit. Lauryn Gutierrez / Rewire

DETROIT–Former Michigan state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D) told her sexual assault story in an effort to halt Republican efforts to pass anti-choice legislation. If elected governor, she says she would continue to stand up for reproductive health care amid sustained efforts from the opposing party to limit access.

Speaking to Rewire last weekend at the Women’s Convention in Detroit, Whitmer said Republicans, who hold the majority of the legislature, have “continued to push more and more barriers to women” and their ability to access health care. “You know, it used to be that you had a health plan that covered abortive services, and they’ve created what I call ‘rape insurance,’ where it requires that you pre-purchase an abortion rider for an unplanned event,” said Whitmer, referring to the infamous 2013 Michigan GOP bill requiring insurance riders for abortion care even in cases of rape and incest. Though Whitmer introduced legislation to roll back the law in 2014, it remains in place.

If elected, Whitmer said she would work to stop anti-choice legislation and “continue to protect the investments that we make in our local public health offices—education for young people, access to birth control.” Whitmer expressed hope that Democrats could take back the Michigan House of Representatives but said, “if necessary, I have got the backbone of titanium to hold the line on further attacks eroding women’s health care.”

She added that she is “eager to build any bridge that I can to prevent unwanted pregnancy—and [is willing to partner] with anybody who genuinely has that as a goal.”

When asked what specific actions she would take to expand and protect access to reproductive health care in Michigan, Whitmer said she has “always supported the effort to fund our public health and family planning line in the state budget” and suggested that she would be “a governor who is willing to utilize the rule-making authority within departments and make it easier for women to access birth control.”

Whitmer said reproductive rights are “absolutely” an intersectional issue. “Reproductive rights [are] about having full ability to make your own determination as an American citizen,” she told Rewire. “It’s about liberty. It’s about freedom. It’s about economic security. The biggest decision a woman makes in her lifetime when it comes to her independence and her wealth is when and whether to start a family. So it absolutely transcends many issues when it comes to being viewed as a full-American [with] full rights.”

Michigan’s primary to replace term-limited Gov. Rick Snyder (R) will be held August 7, 2018. Whitmer faces competition for the Democratic nomination from a handful of candidates, including former Detroit health commissioner Abdul El-Sayed and entrepreneur Shri Thanedar.