Democrats hope abortion issue will offset doubts about Biden in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Two women campaigning for President Joe Biden after facing medical emergencies because of abortion restrictions in their states visited Michigan on Tuesday to highlight what they say are the risks to women’s health since federal abortion protections were overturned.

Democrats are aiming to make abortion rights a central issue in the 2024 election in the battleground state, hoping it will appeal to undecided voters and some members of the party who don’t like how Biden has handled the Israel−Hamas war.

“For all of us across the country, in all 50 states, our rights are on the line this election,” said Amanda Zurawski, a Texas woman who went into premature labor, developed sepsis and nearly died after she was initially refused an abortion.

By her side Tuesday in Lansing was Kaitlyn Joshua, a Louisiana woman who said restrictive abortion laws prevented her from getting medical help for a miscarriage.

Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved a citizen−led ballot initiative that codified abortion rights in the state’s constitution in the 2022 midterms after the Supreme Court’s conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade. The ballot initiative sparked record turnout, particularly among young voters, leading to Democrats’ largest gains in decades.

The party is hoping to re−create that success this year but has encountered troubling trends within its base. Wayne County, which includes Detroit and has the largest Democratic voting base in the state, has become the epicenter for opposition to Biden’s handling of the latest war between Israel and Hamas, and some have said they would sit the election out.

Biden and state Democrats hope emphasizing the threat to abortion rights, an issue proven to unify the party here, can help preserve the coalition that won him the state in 2020. The president and his proxies say a national ban on abortion is possible if former President Donald Trump is reelected, pointing to Trump’s judicial nominations that paved the way for the Supreme Court’s decision in 2022.

“I am terrified for women of reproductive age who live in all these states where we have seen bans,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who also took part in the Lansing event. “And I’m also terrified for women of reproductive age here in Michigan based on what could happen if we have the wrong person as president.”

Republicans, including Trump, are struggling to figure out how to talk about the issue, if at all. In an interview published last week by Time magazine, Trump said it should be left to the states whether to prosecute women for abortions. Some Republicans in Michigan, including U.S. Senate candidate Mike Rogers, have said that the issue of abortion rights has been settled in Michigan, and that it’s no longer on the ballot.

Zurawski and Joshua, who last month traveled to North Carolina and Wisconsin to campaign for Biden, joined similar small events in Detroit and Grand Rapids on Tuesday to share their stories with state lawmakers, local officials and voters.

The Biden campaign considers both women’s stories to be potent firsthand accounts of the growing medical peril they say many women face because of abortion restrictions pushed by Republicans. Recent events featuring other surrogates for Biden, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, have also centered on abortion rights.

Since winning full legislative control in 2022, Michigan Democrats have struck down the state’s 1931 abortion ban, prohibited Michigan companies from firing or retaliating against workers for receiving an abortion and lifted regulations on abortion clinics.

Joey Cappelletti, The Associated Press

Photo: AP