Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer hammers Trump over abortion: ‘He’s lied over and over again’

One of the Democratic Party’s rising stars was on Donald Trump’s case over what she said were the “lies” the former president told the American people for years about his stance on reproductive rights.

The presumed nominee of the Republican Party to take on President Joe Biden in 2024, Mr Trump released a video last Monday outlining his (current) stance on the issue of abortion rights. He declined to support a federal ban, while explaining that he believed it was up to states to set separate and varying standards for abortion rights.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined Sunday’s Meet The Press on NBC and responded to moderator Kristen Welker’s assertion that Mr Trump was “straddling the line” on the issue.

Whitmer speaking at Abortion Rights Michigan in 2023 (Associated Press)
Whitmer speaking at Abortion Rights Michigan in 2023 (Associated Press)

“Well, I think your phraseology, "straddle the line” is generous. He's lied. He’s lied over and over again to the people of this country,” said the governor.

“[I]t's very clear abortion is not just on the ballot in places like Arizona and Florida; it is on the ballot in all 50 states,” Ms Whitmer continued. “[T]he former president has said many different times that he would sign a national abortion ban, and that's really a very real possibility that would undo all the progress we've made in states like Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, et cetera.”

Her accusation that Mr Trump “lied” to the American people is presumably a reference to his long and winding “evolution” on the issue. Orginally describing himself as supportive of a woman’s right to have an abortion before he entered politics, Mr Trump came out in opposition to abortion rights after he launched his campaign for president in 2015 and sought a political alliance with the evangelical Christian right.

Trump with Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Trump with Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Since then, he has taken credit numerous times for the appointment of three conservative Supreme Court justices who voted in favour of overturning Roe vs Wade, the Supreme Court case establishing abortion as a federally-protected right. But he also has appeared to at least flirt with the possibility of endorsing a national ban on numerous occasions.

Ms Whitmer’s own re-election came after she beat a candidate backed by the former president in 2022; Tudor Dixon, her former opponent, was seen to be on the extremes of the anti-abortion right. Voters that same year approved a ballot measure enshrining reproductive rights into the state’s constitution.

Abortion is set to be a major issue in 2024 as well. States including Florida and Arizona are set to have ballot questions similar to Michigan’s abortion rights measure before voters this year, while control of the White House and two chambers of Congress will decide whether Republicans have the opportunity or the political capital to pursue restrictions on abortion at the federal level.

Democrats have rallied around messaging on the issue and are expected to make reproductive freedom a central theme of their 2024 campaigns.