In Detroit, Michigan Democrats prepare for a possible abortion ban

Michigan House Democrats have stood firmly on repealing a 1931 law that makes abortion illegal in the state.

The leaked Supreme Court draft to overturn Roe v. Wade is being met with stiff opposition by Michigan Democrats. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sued to overturn a state law that would ban abortion if the federal ruling was dismissed, saying 2.2 million women could lose their reproductive rights.

I want every Michigander to know that no matter what happens in D.C., I’m going to fight like hell to protect access to safe, legal abortion in Michigan,” Whitmer said on a video posted on TikTok.

That sentiment was shared by Democrats in the State House. Representatives Cynthia A. Johnson, Abraham Aiyash and Tyrone Carter were in downtown Detroit Tuesday, where at least 100 protesters circled a federal courthouse in support of reproductive rights.

Listen: Reps. Johnson, Aiyash and Carter discuss the implications of an abortion ban in Michigan.


WDET’s Eli Newman spoke with Reps. Cynthia A. Johnson, Abraham Aiyash and Tyrone Carter about Michigan Democrats reaction to a possible abortion ban. Read an excerpt of their conversation, edited for brevity and clarity, below.


Newman: What powers does the Michigan Legislature have at their disposal to work against a possible repeal of Roe v. Wade?

Johnson: People power. Because right now, it is all up in the air. We don’t know exactly what’s going on. That’s why in part, this group or some of the people who are here under the pretense that they’re here for an abortion rally …. With regard to abortion rights, there is not, I don’t think, not one Democrat and I believe that there are some Republicans who are against this proposed opinion.

Now Rep. Aiyash, do you have an understanding of what would happen if this opinion was to become law and Roe was to be overturned?

Aiyash: Yes, so what we have in Michigan is what’s called a snap-back rule. There’s a law on the books from 1931 that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion of all sorts would be illegal in the state of Michigan. The Michigan House Democrats have stood firmly on repealing this law. We worked with the governor. The governor attempted to overthrow that law as well, [a law] that existed far before the polio vaccine ever did.

Right now, the concern is we have a Republican majority in the Michigan Legislature that has not and will not act on this. In fact, one of our colleagues bought chicken biscuits and called them ‘God sandwiches,’ I believe or something along those lines and used the BLM moniker to save ‘Baby Lives Matters.’ But the irony is, the babies’ lives don’t matter once they’re out of the womb.

Right now, we need to repeal this law. And we need to pass the amendment that would enshrine in the Michigan State Constitution that abortion is a legal right here in the state of Michigan. So there’s a petition that we are all supporting and Rep. Carter and Rep. Johnson and myself and all House Democrats have signed. And finally, we have to pass the Reproductive Health Act that the House Democrats introduced earlier this year, which all of us co-sponsored.

Rep. Johnson, do you see this as a motivating issue going into the midterms?

Johnson: Oh, absolutely. I expect that the Democrats and [other] people will come out. It’s really not even about Democrats and Republicans. I believe that there will be people who will come out on all sides of the spectrum and will overwhelmingly defeat the Republican Party.

Aiyash: And let’s not forget to Rep. Johnson’s point, 19% of Michiganders support overturning Roe v. Wade. 71% of people living in this state across the entire political spectrum agree that access to a necessary safe legal abortion if a woman needs it or chooses to do it should be something that they should have a right to do. [Note: According to WDIV/The Detroit News poll Rep. Aiyash is citing – more than 77% of Michigan voters surveyed said abortion is something that should be left to a woman and her doctor.]

And this disproportionately impacts poor Black and brown communities. Rich folks can hop in their car or take a plane ride to another state and potentially go and get an abortion if they need it. Unfortunately, this will disproportionately impact people, particularly in places like Detroit.

Carter: Hell, they can go to another country. They have the resources. The reason I’m here today is to support this. Because the bottom line is we don’t have the right to tell a woman when and where and how. And this starts a slippery slope. You know the old poem or adage where they came for this group and I did nothing because it wasn’t me? And we talk about states’ rights — look at how the states are configured and gerrymandered. There’s a reason that the civil rights laws are federal laws. There’s a reason Roe v. Wade is a federal law. If we leave it up to states, a lot of groups are in trouble. If we can’t stand together on some things that are going to impact us all, then shame on us when we don’t.

Have your offices received any calls regarding this issue? I mean, obviously, we have a lot of people here today, but have your officers received any calls?

Johnson: I’ve got to be honest, I really haven’t been checking because I’ve been so busy in all of what’s going on. And all these meetings that we’ve been having, I don’t even know.

Carter: We’ve been working on the budget. The budget is a priority right now. This was a last-minute [protest]. They’re having one in Lansing and we’re having one here. We thought it important enough to show up and show our support.

You know, people probably look at me and say ‘He’s a man. He’s a Black man. Why is he here?’ Because you know what? When they come after me, I’m going to need people to stand with me as well.

Aiyash: I had a constituent call my office today and she said in the event Roe v. Wade is overturned and people have to go to Canada, she’s willing to keep her house as a safe haven for people to stay before they cross the Windsor Tunnel or the Ambassador Bridge to go get an abortion if it’s medically necessary for them. This is an issue that is far reaching. I think a lot of people see the writing on the wall as far as should this opinion stand within the Supreme Court. You’re going to see an attack on civil rights, on voting rights. And we already saw the gutting of voting rights, right?

Johnson: Let’s be real clear: I’m a woman, I’m a female. And this really pisses me off because it tells me that there are some powerful men who are trying to still tell women what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. And to dismiss us. And we’re not going back. That’s just not going to happen.

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  • Eli Newman is a Reporter/Producer for 101.9 WDET, covering breaking news, politics and community affairs. His favorite Motown track is “It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops.