Dems plan to attack GOP on abortion rights in ’24

Govs. Whitmer and Walz emphasized the party’s intentions Friday.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) addresses supporters during a bill signing ceremony on April 5, 2023, in Birmingham, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

Democratic governors helping lead the party’s national political efforts said their candidates will champion abortion rights on the campaign trail again this year.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who serves as national co-chair of President Biden’s re-election campaign, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D), chair of the Democratic Governors Association, said on a call with reporters Friday it is an issue that recent campaign successes and polls show should help Democrats up and down the ballot.

Whitmer, who is spearheading a series of events across Michigan to emphasize Biden’s support for abortion rights, said it is important for the president to drive home the differences between himself and former President Donald Trump, who appointed Supreme Court justices that helped overturn Roe v. Wade. She raised the potential for “a national abortion ban” should a Republican win the White House.

“We know that voters care and they get mobilized around this issue,” Whitmer said.

Without a federal standard on abortion access, states have set their own policies to ban, restrict or protect the right to abortions. Fourteen states have banned it, four have restricted the gestational limit to six to 12 weeks, and seven to between 15 and 22 weeks, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Whitmer said the Biden campaign should make the case for abortion rights in states beyond typical battlegrounds, including those where the issue recently got some traction.

She mentioned: Republican-leaning Ohio, where voters last year approved a constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights; Kentucky, which last year re-elected Gov. Andy Beshear (D); and Kansas, where in 2022 voters defeated a constitutional amendment removing abortion protections in the state.

Walz said the issue could help state-level Democrats in November because women in their states and districts are attuned to the abortion access debate.

“This cuts across the” rural-urban divide, Walz said, as the overturning of Roe left “health care desert” in conservative, rural areas.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re running in a rural state House race,” Walz said. “This issue is important to women in that district, and to others, so I don’t think you have to be a statewide candidate to stand on this issue of freedom.”

Walz pointed to recent DGA-commissioned polls in New Hampshire and North Carolina, which are hosting the two most competitive governor races, that showed abortion access is a significant concern for voters.

“That’s the contrast between our two candidates, and you can be certain that through the DGA and our allies and our candidates we’ll be stressing that,” Walz said.