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Vice President says abortion rights at risk in Grand Rapids stop

vice president kamala harris and michigan governor gretchen whitmer sit at a table with others at Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids. Behind them, large blue signs read "Trust Women" and "Fight for Reproductive Freedoms."
Dustin Dwyer
Michigan Public
Vice President Kamala Harris attended a roundtable discussion in Grand Rapids Thursday as part of her "Fight for Reproductive Freedoms" tour.

Vice President Kamala Harris said reproductive freedoms are at risk in Michigan, if Republicans gain more control in Washington, D.C., in November.

The comments came Thursday as she visited Grand Rapids as part of her multi-state “Fight for Reproductive Freedoms” tour. Harris sat at a table at Fountain Street Church in the city, alongside Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, and Congresswoman Hillary Scholten, who represents Grand Rapids.

Harris thanked Whitmer and the state Legislature for passing laws the protect the right to abortion in the state for now, but she said abortion opponents haven’t stopped pushing for more restrictions.

“The people of Michigan cannot sit back and take comfort without also understanding that elections matter and that there is a full-on concerted effort to pass a national ban which would mean the people of Michigan would not be as safe,” Harris said.

Right to Life of Michigan issued a statement responding to the Vice President’s visit suggesting a national abortion ban is not something the current Congress would pass.

“The Vice President’s visit to Grand Rapids is part of a coordinated election year charade to mislead voters with a fantasy that abortion access in Michigan is somehow at risk,” said Right to Life of Michigan president Amber Roseboom, in a statement posted online.

“A woman in Michigan can have an abortion for any reason, at any point in her pregnancy. There is absolutely nothing that can be done in our state Legislature to change that reality. Also, there is no path forward in Congress to pass any sort of a national ‘ban’ as it is being called, which is actually just a gestational limit on the window of time in which a woman could have an abortion.”

Right to Life of Michigan is currently suing to overturn the voter-approved constitutional amendment that enshrined abortion rights in the state Constitution.

Harris’ stop was planned for Grand Rapids five days before the official presidential primary election in the state (early voting is already underway). While Biden and Harris are widely expected to breeze through the primary, as previous incumbent administrations before them, the state could be competitive in the November general election, based on early polling. Former President Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner for the nomination, won over Michigan voters in 2016 on his way to the presidency, before losing to Biden in 2020.

“The previous president of the United States was clear in his intention to hand-pick three Supreme Court justices who would overturn the protections of Roe v. Wade,” Harris said, laying the blame on Trump for the suffering that she says many women have endured since.

“And we must be explicit about what that is, because this is not a hypothetical point,” Harris said. “Women have been having miscarriages in toilets in our country — have been denied access to emergency care because of what has been happening.”

Harris also spoke about a state Supreme Court ruling handed down this week in Alabama which said frozen embryos could be considered children. The decision threw into question the legality of the common, and popular, in-vitro fertilization fertility treatment.

“Think about that,” Harris said. “Individuals, couples, who want to start a family are now being deprived of access to what can help them start a family.”

Harris’s comments came at the start of what was described as a roundtable discussion, though reporters were only allowed in for the first part of the discussion.

Congresswoman Hillary Scholten, the first woman to represent the city of Grand Rapids in Congress, and who is also a devout Christian, moderated the conversation.

“Even though we have come so far in Michigan, women like me are still terrified about what might happen,” Scholten said. “And that’s why every day I’m working to make sure that we have constitutional protections over these rights, and these freedoms.”

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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