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Michigan is looking to ban abortions. It may rest on the gubernatorial election

ELISSA NADWORNY, HOST:

In Michigan, the right to an abortion is teetering. Republicans who control the state legislature want to enforce a 1931 abortion ban that's still on the books. Democrats, including Governor Gretchen Whitmer, have vowed not to let that happen. Zoe Clark of Michigan Radio joins us now.

Good morning, Zoe.

ZOE CLARK, BYLINE: Good morning.

NADWORNY: So what will the decision come down to in Michigan?

CLARK: Yeah, actually, it could come down to another high court, the Michigan Supreme Court. That's because earlier this year, Governor Whitmer used this special executive power that governors in Michigan have. She asked the Michigan Supreme Court to rule without an actual case before them on the constitutionality of that 1931 law that you mentioned. Now, that law had been dormant because of Roe v. Wade. That was until this Friday, of course, when the United States Supreme Court ruled. However, an additional case, one brought by Planned Parenthood of Michigan - it's also looking for a ruling on the constitutionality of the law. And just last month, a court of claims judge issued a preliminary injunction, which means right now, until the Michigan Supreme Court rules, abortion is still legal in Michigan. But that's temporary.

NADWORNY: So speaking of the governor, Whitmer - she is up for reelection this year. And it's looking like it's going to be a really tight race, right?

CLARK: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, Michigan is a purple state. Whitmer and the attorney general are both Democrats, but the state House and Senate are both controlled by Republicans. And both those chambers are up for election in November. Many Republican lawmakers in the state are really happy with the Supreme Court decision. And just late last week, a small group of really conservative members introduced bills that would even further punish abortion providers in the state. Governor Whitmer would veto any legislation like that. In fact, here she is at a rally Friday night outside the state Capitol, talking about those bills.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GRETCHEN WHITMER: Dangerous abortion bans that take away our rights and put women's health and lives at risk. So if you know a Republican or independent who values women's rights, we've got to invite them to join us.

NADWORNY: OK. So tell us about the Republican field vying to go up against Whitmer. I mean, that primary election is coming up in August, right? Who are the other players here?

CLARK: Yeah. Yeah. So Tudor Dixon is 1 of 5 Republicans running to be the GOP nominee to run against Whitmer in November. And just like the other four candidates, she is fervently anti-abortion. In fact, earlier this month, Tudor Dixon - she received the really important endorsement from Right to Life of Michigan. That is a big get in Michigan Republican politics. But there's also Ryan Kelley, right? He gained a lot of attention just last week. That's when he was arrested at his home by the FBI for his involvement in the January 6 attack on the Capitol. He released this really provocative statement after the Supreme Court decision was released. And he said in part that he would fight until, quote, "we remove this scourge of abortion from the state of Michigan."

NADWORNY: Yeah, wow. I should note also that Whitmer doesn't have a primary. She's running unopposed on the Democratic side.

CLARK: Exactly.

NADWORNY: So a lot is riding on voters' choices of a new governor. Is that election the only path forward for voters?

CLARK: Not necessarily. In fact, there is currently a petition drive trying to amend the state constitution. It would enshrine reproductive rights into the state constitution. That's regardless of the 1931 statute. The deadline to submit enough signatures to get on the November ballot - that is happening in a little over two weeks. If there are enough valid signatures, the question would go to the November ballot. And voters here in Michigan would then get to decide the issue. And, of course, that could make a difference in turnout for the November election when Gretchen Whitmer is up for reelection.

NADWORNY: Yeah. Goes back to that governor's race.

CLARK: Uh-huh.

NADWORNY: That was Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark. Thank you so much for your reporting, Zoe.

CLARK: Oh, thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Zoe Clark