Democrat Gretchen Whitmer once told the story of her own sexual assault while speaking out against extreme GOP-led legislation requiring additional insurance riders for abortion care even in cases of rape and incest.
Now she has become the first person to enter the Michigan gubernatorial race to replace Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.
“I’m no stranger to fights,” Whitmer wrote in an article Tuesday posted on Medium announcing her bid for the governorship. “Fights to protect workers’ rights, fights to level the playing field for everyone, fights to protect kids and to hold government accountable.”
“No matter the outcome, the fight was always worth it for what it said to the people we were fighting for,” she wrote. “To the men and women who don’t know if they can count on their paycheck, to the students and their families taking on frightening amounts of college debt, to the women whose access to health care is threatened, to the brick and mortar business owner competing with the world on an unlevel playing field.”
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The former Michigan Senate Democratic leader’s announcement marked the first official bid to replace Snyder, who is reaching the end of his term-limited time as the head of the state after facing criticism for his handling of the government-made water crisis in Flint.
Whitmer has panned Snyder for signing extreme anti-choice measures. Michigan Republicans moved in 2013 to ban insurance coverage for abortion care with no exceptions and force people to pre-purchase insurance riders for abortion, a proposal dubbed the “rape insurance” bill as it is impossible for women to predict whether they would become pregnant after a rape and need an abortion.
Whitmer spoke out against the measure by sharing her own story.
“As a legislator, a lawyer, a woman and the mother of two girls, I think the fact that rape insurance is even being discussed by this body is repulsive, let alone the way it has been orchestrated and now shoved through the legislature,” Whitmer said at the time. “I’m about to tell you something that I’ve not shared with many people in my life. But over 20 years ago I was a victim of rape. And thank God it didn’t result in a pregnancy, because I can’t imagine going through what I went through and then having to consider what to do about an unwanted pregnancy from an attacker.”
“I thought this was all behind me,” she said. “The thought and the memory of that still haunts me. If this were law then and I had become pregnant I would not be able to have coverage because of this. How extreme, how extreme does this measure need to be?
She later introduced legislation to undo that law, though the anti-choice restrictions remain.
Whitmer participated in a performance of The Vagina Monologues on the steps of the state capitol in 2012 after a colleague was barred from speaking for using the word “vagina” during a debate in the Michigan House about an unconstitutional 20-week abortion ban.
Several key figures have hinted that they may enter Michigan’s gubernatorial race. U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D), who represents Flint, released a statement Tuesday signaling he would “make a decision about where he could do the most good” in the coming months. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) told the Associated Press this week that he intended to be “part of the conversation” on the state’s leadership when asked whether he would run for governor.
Schuette received an endorsement in the attorney general’s race from the anti-choice Right to Life of Michigan PAC, citing his record of voting for abortion restrictions during his tenure as a state senator and representative in the U.S. House. In April, Schuette attempted to shut down an abortion clinic over what attorneys for the clinic argued were essentially “clerical errors.”