Gov. Whitmer urges business leaders to join “economic” fight for abortion rights

“The most convincing economic decision a woman will make in her life is whether and when to have a child,” Whitmer said. “And if you take a job in Michigan and you don’t have that right anymore, it’s going to be hard for us to say that Michigan is a place where you have to come and make your life.”


Whitmer told Bridge that she has already encouraged business leaders to take a stand on reproductive rights and intends to encourage them during a speech Thursday afternoon at a policy conference, bringing together more than a thousand business, political and thought leaders from across the state.

School safety – and whether and how to regulate firearms – is also an area where business leaders could help advocate for change after the deadly shootings at Oxford High School in November and, more recently, Texas Primary School. Whitmer said.

“Whether they are committed because they personally think it’s the right thing to do, or because they see the economic inscriptions on the wall, I think we need the voices of leaders in various fields and the business community is involved,” he said.

As he seeks re-election this fall, Whitmer has vowed to “fight like hell” to protect access to abortion in Michigan in the increasingly likely case of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Rowe v. Wade, a remarkable decision that guarantees the right to the woman to choose the 1973 procedure.

The Democrat in his first term in April took the rare step of asking the Michigan Supreme Court to repeal as unconstitutional a 1931 U.S. state law banning abortions in the state unless a pregnant woman’s life is at risk.

A Michigan lawsuit judge last month suspended the law amid a legal debate, a decision that abortion opponents have appealed. Proponents of abortion are also collecting signatures for a potential voting proposal that would ask voters to register access to abortion in the Michigan Constitution.

Republican gubernatorial candidates vying for Whitmer have said they support the 1931 U.S. law and will seek to ensure that Michigan imposes an abortion ban if the Supreme Court overturns Rowe, a decision expected later this month.

“It’s very important for me to protect my life,” Norton Shores Governor-General Tudor Dixon said in a debate last month. The conservative media personality and businesswoman called the 1931 Michigan abortion ban a “good law.”

Michigan’s Right to Life, a powerful advocacy group that opposes legal abortion, supported Dixon on Thursday, saying her “leadership will be absolutely essential to restore the basic right to life of the most helpless members of our human family.” “.

Think about competitiveness

Michigan business leaders were largely silent last month when a draft opinion suggested conservative judges at the nation’s top court intend to remove Rowe against Wade, which would remove federal protections and make access to abortion a state-level decision. .

The Detroit Regional Chamber, which hosts the annual political conference and backed Whitmer in 2018, broke this silence on Tuesday with a statement that stopped taking a stand on access to abortion, but asked politicians to “consider” how the state reacts to the potential The court ruling will affect Michigan companies in the race for national talent. ”

“Reflecting the wider society, business owners and leaders have a wide range of views on abortion rights – some strongly support or oppose, and the majority somewhere in the middle,” the chamber said in a statement.

Abortion rights are certainly not a common problem in the Chamber of Commerce, but as Michigan seeks to attract skilled talent – especially young talent – to meet the demands of our increasingly complex economy, the Detroit Regional Chamber calls on Michigan lawmakers to address issues of economic competitiveness if abortion rights are returned to the states. “

The statement was not overly insistent and was published online just two days before the planned removal, but “I was glad to see that they put their finger across the line,” House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski, D-Scio Township, told Bridge Michigan. .

“I think we are at the beginning” of the business community’s speech, she predicted.

A majority of Michigan voters appear to support continued access to abortion, according to a recent study by the Glengariff Group Inc. for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Approximately 55 percent of voters support leaving Roe in place, while 26 percent want his repeal, according to a poll of 600 registered voters. Approximately 59 percent said they would support an amendment to Michigan’s constitution that would make abortion legal at the state level.

Business leaders continue to struggle over when and whether to speak on various political issues, said Sandy Barrois, chief executive of the Detroit Regional Chamber, who works for former President George W. Bush’s U.S. Small Business Administration.

From racial and social justice movements to gay and transgender rights, business leaders speak “clearly” in an unprecedented way, he said.

Last year, for example, business leaders from some of Michigan’s largest employers – including Ford, General Motors and Blue Cross Blue Shield – spoke out against false allegations of the 2020 presidential election and discouraged Michigan lawmakers from creating new ones. laws that would reduce voter turnout or disenfranchisement.

“There has never been a period of time in which you have seen business leaders so engaged and somehow intervened in public policy issues as we are now,” Barua said.

“There is always repulsion”

But speaking poses a risk to companies: A Detroit House poll shows voters have mixed opinions about whether business leaders should be wary of hot issues. Approximately 47 percent of voters said they supported business leaders who held public positions on important political issues, while 31 percent said they opposed it and 22 percent were unsure.

However, strong Republican voters are more likely to oppose business leaders who interfere in public policy debates.

Republicans were also more inclined to support lawmakers punishing companies for taking positions on hot issues, which happened recently in Florida when Disney opposed a new “don’t say gay” law that regulates youth education.

“Every time there are countries, there is always someone with a different point of view and there is always some repulsion,” said Garik Rochow, president and CEO of Consumers Energy, who told Bridge Michigan that his company had “made a lot of inward thinking.” to increase diversity and inclusion following the 2020 police assassination of George Floyd, which sparked protests for national racial justice.

Consumers have not yet taken a stand on access to abortion, but “will consider the right answer” for the company and its employees, he said.

When weighing complex issues, business leaders need to focus on solving problems, Roch said. In school shootings, for example, “you can choose whether you are for or against guns, but that’s not really the unifying cry,” he said. “The public outcry is that we cannot have violence in schools. So how do we solve this problem, because it can actually lead to the root cause. “

In a panel discussion at the conference, Cindy Pasquie, president and CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions, said she would “never make a statement” that could jeopardize her company’s success, noting that public policy positions are particularly difficult for international companies with employees in many countries.

Paski and her business are not taking a stand on access to abortion at the moment, she told Bridge Michigan.

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