Michigan senators stress high stakes in Michigan of overturning Roe decision

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — Michigan's two senators on Tuesday condemned the unofficial decision by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade and stressed the need to enshrine its protections in federal law, though their Democratic caucus lacks the votes.

"It really is the ultimate intrusion on a woman's right to privacy — no question about it," U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Lansing Democrat, said Tuesday on Capitol Hill. 

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, said he was "exceedingly disappointed" by the draft opinion. "If true, it's a serious step backward for women's health," Peters said. 

Sen. Debbie Stabenow speaks Tuesday, May 3, 2022, outside the U.S. Capitol about the leaked opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade.

Stabenow offered Michigan as an example of the 23 states where abortion is expected to be restricted in a post-Roe era. Michigan's 1931 law makes abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony with no exceptions for rape or incest.

"It's extremely concerning," Stabenow said. "The anger and the frustration and the fear are just exploding across Michigan and across the country. 

"Women who thought that this could never happen are now realizing that we have a group of Supreme Court justices, a group of members of Congress, who are so extreme, so out of touch with the lives of women that they would make this kind of decision."

Republican senators condemned the leak Tuesday as an effort to incite a "pressure campaign" ahead of the court's published decision to convince the justices to change their minds. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky stressed the need to find the leaker.

"Liberals want to rip the blindfold off Lady Justice. They want to override impartiality with intimidation. They want to elevate mob rule over the rule of law," McConnell said Tuesday on the Senate floor. "Whoever committed this lawless act knew exactly what it could bring about."

Asked about the potential impact of the decision on the midterm elections, McConnell didn't answer directly. "That's not the story for today," McConnell said. He also rebuffed a question about whether he sees the need for federal abortion restriction legislation if Roe is overturned. 

But Senate Democrats see an opening and were encouraging shocked voters to turn out in November to elect pro-choice lawmakers in the midterm elections. 

"I do believe that this is going to have an impact on the election," Stabenow said. "I think it will make a real difference in how women look at this issue."

In the past, the Republican base was more galvanized over social issues like abortion, but Peters suggested the fall of Roe would shift that: "It's different this time." 

"Now this is an issue that will be front and center because it could become very real," said Peters, chair of the Senate Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "People always counted on Roe v. Wade as a floor. That floor is now going to disappear."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday the Senate would vote next week on legislation to codify Roe. But the chamber voted on a similar bill in February that failed 46-48, with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, who opposes abortion, voting with the Republicans. 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday joined with five other Democratic governors to call on Congress to "immediately put protections offered by Roe v. Wade into federal law," calling the legislation "critical." 

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, was among the Democrats calling Tuesday for the Senate to abolish the legislative filibuster and to codify Roe "immediately," as well as expand the Supreme Court.

But Senate Democrats also don't appear to have the votes to end the filibuster that requires 60 votes for legislation to advance, though Stabenow supports doing away with it and Peters said he is "very open" to changing rules to codify Roe. 

"This issue is of such critical importance to families in America that we need to make we need to make a decision and move forward," Peters said Tuesday.

At a news conference, McConnell committed to "absolutely" keeping the filibuster if the GOP retakes the majority next year. "We don't want to break the Senate," McConnell said. 

U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, said he hoped the final ruling from the justices will confirm the contents of the leaked draft, saying it would be an "incredible victory for everyone who has worked hard to protect the unborn."


Staff writer Riley Beggin contributed.