Do Michigan Republicans running for Congress back Graham’s 15-week abortion ban?

By: - September 15, 2022 11:08 am

Republican congressional nominees (clockwise): Tom Barrett, John Gibbs, John James and Paul Junge | Andrew Roth, Allison R. Donahue and Getty photos

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a GOP U.S. senator this week announced new legislation that would establish a national abortion ban.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), would ban all abortions after 15 weeks. Many red states already have stricter bans than that, but it would override laws in many states that don’t. Michigan has a 1931 abortion ban, which is currently blocked by the courts. Voters will decide Nov. 8 on Proposal 3 enshrining reproductive rights in the state Constitution.

The federal legislation would allow narrow exceptions for rape, incest or the life or health of the pregnant patient, though not if the diagnosis includes “psychological or emotional conditions.” There are no exceptions for severe fetal anomalies or pregnancies that are otherwise nonviable.

At a Wednesday fundraiser in Detroit, President Joe Biden blasted Republicans for supporting a national abortion ban.

Biden says Republicans ‘want a national ban on abortion’

Michigan has four congressional races in November that are considered key to determining control of the U.S. House. 

The Democratic candidates have all criticized the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe and support abortion rights: Hillary Scholten in the 3rd District, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) in the 7th District, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) in the 8th District and Carl Marlinga in the 10th District.

The Democratic-led U.S. House passed legislation this summer that would codify abortion rights into law. Kildee and Slotkin, who are currently in office, both voted in favor of this legislation. 

The four Republicans battling for the hotly contested districts do not support abortion rights and have been endorsed by the state’s leading anti-abortion group, Right to Life of Michigan: John Gibbs in the 3rd District, state Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte) in the 7th District, Paul Junge in the 8th District and John James in the 10th District.

The Michigan Advance reached out to the GOP candidates on their position on the Graham bill they could vote on if elected to Congress, but none responded. 

The response from other Republicans has been muted. A few Republican members of the U.S. Senate have spoken up, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who have said that they would prefer to see this decided in state legislatures. 

As the Advance wasn’t able to get answers on Graham’s bill, here is an overview of what the Democratic and Republican candidates in the four key Michigan races have said publicly about abortion.

3rd Congressional District 

Gibbs, who previously worked in the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Trump administration, will face Scholten, an immigration attorney, in the Nov. 8 election. The district includes Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and Muskegon.

The seat is open with U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids), who also celebrated the Dobbs ruling, losing his Aug. 2 primary to Gibbs.

On Gibbs’ campaign site, he lists “protecting innocent unborn lives” as one of his top priority issues. 

“The right to act as one chooses does not extend to the taking of another’s innocent life. We must protect the lives of unborn human beings as a top priority. One only knows which future CEO, President, or Pope, may have been born by a mother who contemplated abortion but was compassionately deterred by laws which protect life,” the site reads. 

Hillary Scholten

He also lists “medical freedom” as a priority, writing that “aggressive medical mandates violate the sacred American principle of freedom of individual choice, forcing our citizens to make potentially adverse decisions under threat of arrest or losing their livelihood and income. Such choices should always be up to each American alone and never forced by the government or corporations.”

Although Gibbs is against abortion rights, this description of medical freedom is similar to the arguments reproductive rights advocates are making to try to enshrine the right to abortion care in the state Constitution with Proposal 3. 

Scholten has been endorsed by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and would be the first woman to represent the district in Congress.

On her website, she said “protecting reproductive health care choices is fundamentally a matter of privacy and freedom from government control. It is a kitchen table issue, a worker’s rights issue, a child welfare issue, and a healthcare worker protection issue.”

7th Congressional District

Slotkin and Barrett will face off on the November ballot in what’s considered one of the most competitive races in the nation. The district includes Lansing, East Lansing and Charlotte. 

Last month, after Kansas voters turned down an abortion ban, Barrett took down a section of his website that detailed his anti-abortion stance. As reported by the Detroit News, Barrett said he was unaware of the change to his website, but said it was likely made to focus on “the issues that were most salient right now.”

Rep. Elissa Slotkin talks to reporters after her town hall at Oakland University, Dec. 16, 2019 | Laina G. Stebbins

Multiple polls show that Michiganders rank abortion as a primary motivator for the November election, especially among Democrats.

This shift was shocking to some after Barrett sent out fundraising flyers that said he was “100% Pro-Life – No Exceptions.” He also previously joined Republicans in the state Legislature to reinstate Michigan’s 1931 law banning abortion. That effort was unsuccessful. 

Slotkin has been endorsed by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

“I support the 50-year precedent set in Roe v. Wade, giving women the right to privacy in their own personal health decisions, including whether to end a pregnancy, up to the point of viability,” Slotkin said in a press statement responding to Barrett’s site change. “If a woman’s health is at risk beyond that, a woman and her doctor — not the federal government— should make the decision about whether to terminate a pregnancy.”

8th Congressional District

Junge, a former news anchor in Lansing and former external affairs director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during the Trump administration will face Kildee in the general election. The district includes Flint, Saginaw and Midland. 

Junge told the Detroit News in August that he supports the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and that he would not seek a federal ban on abortions.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint Twp.)on Jan. 27, 2022. (Andrew Roth | Michigan Advance)

“I am pro-life. I support life at all times,” Junge said during a February 2020 Livingston County Republicans debate when he was running in the former 8th District and lost to Slotkin. “If I’m a federal legislator, I will support life.”

Kildee, who has been endorsed by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, lists abortion rights as one of his top priorities.

“Overturning Roe v. Wade will go down as one of the most reprehensible Supreme Court decisions in our country’s history,” Kildee said in a statement on the day Roe fell. “This extreme decision, which rejects a half century of precedent, lays the groundwork for our nation’s highest court to potentially roll back the clock on other individual rights like access to birth control and same-sex marriage. While I am extremely disappointed by today’s decision, I will not stop fighting to protect a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.” 

10th Congressional District

James, a businessman who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate twice, will be up against former Judge Carl Marlinga on Nov. 8 in the open 10th District. The district includes Saint Clair Shores, Sterling Heights and Rochester Hills.

James compared abortion to genocide during a 2018 campaign event he attended in Lansing.

“They want to do away with our children. Fifty million dead since Roe v. Wade,” he said. “That’s unacceptable. I have to recount, not to anybody in this room or anybody in Washington, but with the Lord. I want to hear seven words: Well done my good and faithful servant. Standing by and letting this genocide continue stands in the way of that happening.”

Carl Marlinga, U.S. House Democratic nominee for District 10 | Ken Coleman

His campaign has previously described him as “100% pro-life.” 

Marlinga said the pre-Roe era was an “awful” situation for women in terms of “the grief, the anxiety, the travels, the shame, the possibility of criminal prosecution.”

“I believe that government has no business interfering with a woman’s health care choices, including any choice that she may make regarding abortion. Therefore, I pledge to codify the protections of Roe into federal law to provide again the protections and rights which the Supreme Court stripped away,” Marlinga’s campaign website reads. 

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.

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