Nov 7, 2022 - Podcasts

Voices of the abortion fight in Michigan

Abortion is on the ballot in five states tomorrow. But the fight over abortion in Michigan is making significant waves. It's hard to be anywhere in the state and not hear about Proposal 3, the amendment that would enshrine an individual's right to an abortion in the state constitution.

  • Plus, what a Republican majority in Congress would mean for pandemic policies like the military vaccine mandate.

Guests: Axios' Andrew Solender, Reproductive Freedom for All's Julie Rowe, Citizens to Support MI Women & Children' Christen Pollo, and Calvin University student Delaney Marsh.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Monday, November 7th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Today on the show: what a Republican majority in Congress would mean for pandemic policies like the military vaccine mandate. But first, the view from both sides of Proposal 3. On the ground with the abortion fight in Michigan - is today’s One Big Thing.

Abortion fight in Michigan

NIALA: It’s hard to be anywhere in Michigan and not hear about Proposal 3, the amendment that would enshrine an individual's right to an abortion in the state constitution.

Abortion is on the ballot in five states tomorrow. But the fight over abortion in Michigan is making significant waves.

There are street signs - hundreds of volunteers knocking on doors - and the Catholic church has sent out mailers to its 1.8 million members in Michigan trying to get them to vote against the proposal.

By the numbers, roughly $57 million was poured into campaigning around Proposal 3 in Michigan from August through October, according to POLITICO, which reports that that is more money than went into the races for governor, attorney general and secretary of state in Michigan combined. And it’s also about ten times more than has been spent on similar campaigns in Vermont and Kentucky - the other two purple states that also have abortion on the ballot.

We spoke to representatives on both sides of this debate in Michigan for their takes on the issue and the fight around it.

Julie Rowe is the Political and Organizing Director of Reproductive Freedom for All Michigan, the group that helped get this issue on the ballot.

JULIE ROWE: We've got tons of people who are saying, I'm gonna take two weeks vacation, put me to work. Where do you need me? What can I do? That level of commitment and energy and sacrifice that people are making to really take the action that they can take, I've never experienced it.

NIALA: Christen Pollo is the Spokeswoman for Citizens to Support Michigan Women and Children, which is trying to keep Proposal 3 from passing…and she told me recently she's hearing about a similar energy on her side of the issue.

CHRISTEN POLLO: The momentum is amazing. Actually, we've now had two volunteers this week who quit their jobs so that they can spend the whole rest of the campaign knocking doors all day, every day, and reaching voters.

NIALA: Proposal 3 is still expected to pass. But support for it has decreased in the weeks leading up to election from about 60% to 55%, according to a recent WDIV/Detroit News poll. Some activists we spoke to said door to door canvassing was one reason the gap has been narrowing. Like college senior Delaney Marsh who has been canvassing most days.

DELANEY MARSH: I don't think people fully understand what the proposal is. I was the type of person that was like, I could never have an abortion, but I don't wanna stop somebody else from doing that. And the more I learned about it, the more I was like, no this is taking a life. Wait a sec. Like there should be no reason that I'm allowing somebody else to murder someone.

NIALA: The motivation to fight Proposal 3 is also deeply personal to Christen Pollo of Citizens to Support Michigan Women and Children.

CHRISTEN: My mom was pregnant with me in 1991. It was an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, and I'm incredibly grateful for the people who came around her and supported her in that difficult time. I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for those people and my mom's courageous decision to give life to me. And I want every woman to feel loved and supported and to be protected. I think our state has a responsibility and the voters here in Michigan have a responsibility to vote no on three to ensure that women are safe and that children are safe. And Proposal 3 would put all of us at risk.

NIALA: Christen's and other groups against the proposal have not just leaned on anti-abortion messaging -- but have highlighted what they call confusing language, as well as what they say is the lack of parental consent the proposal would allow.

But even as the numbers tighten, Julie Rowe from Reproductive Freedom for All Michigan is confident -- as her group and others continue to underscore the idea of reproductive freedom when talking to voters. These deeply held values that we share and that the majority of Michiganders share privacy and respect and dignity and decision making, and the ability to make healthcare decisions with your doctor and not a politician interfering is so deeply personal and so deeply felt by everyone here and I am everyday inspired by the amount of people and just the willingness they have to do whatever it takes to go talk to voters and ensure that we as a state are able to stand up and restore the protections of Roe.

NIALA: After the break, how a Republican Congress would address national pandemic policies.


What a Republican majority in Congress would mean for pandemic policies

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

If the GOP gains control of Congress in tomorrow's midterm elections, one priority will be to draw down the remaining nationwide pandemic policies. That includes the military's vaccine mandate, plus many other policies affecting just about every American. That's what Axios’ Andrew Solender has been hearing on the Hill, and he joins us now. Hey Andrew!

ANDREW SOLENDER: Hey, how you doing?

NIALA: Andrew, I think a lot of people might have forgotten the national policies that are still in place that are affecting daily American lives. I mentioned the military vaccine mandate. What else?

ANDREW: So, federal teleworking, which allows a lot of federal employees to work from home or have a sort of hybrid work schedule. There's the National Emergency Declaration on Covid, which gives Biden emergency powers, which has a lot of sort of indirect effects as well. And all these things are gonna be targeted as sort of a multi-pronged effort by Republicans and a lot of different House and Senate committees, with varying degrees of impact. You know, the pandemic, what we saw was trillions more spending over, you know, baseline levels and pre pandemic times. You know, as public health experts will tell you Covid is not gone yet. So there is a certain element of what this does for actually fighting future waves and future strains of Covid so it really sort of has tendrils throughout American life and throughout American politics.

NIALA: Even before the next Congress is sworn in, as you mentioned, there's a Republican lead resolution on the table that would end the National Emergency Declaration on Covid. What needs to happen for that to happen and what would that accomplish if it passes?

ANDREW: One important thing to note about that is that that resolution can pass the Senate. It can be forced to a vote by the minority, which is the privilege that senators have that House members don't. And that's why it was able to pass in March, by just one vote with the support of Joe Manchin along with all the Republicans. But it didn't get a vote in the House because unlike in the Senate, individual House members, especially in the minority, can't force a bill to the floor unless they have a discharge petition which requires a lot more support than just one member. So basically what would change here is that if Republicans took control of the House, they could pass that resolution in the Senate and then they could vote on it in the House.

But the key is still that Biden could veto that resolution, and it would make it so you would have to get significantly more votes in both chambers than Republicans will likely have after the midterms.

NIALA: How does all of this look different iIf the GOP doesn't take the majority or has a very slim majority lead in the House?

ANDREW: Even a one seat majority gives them a lot of those crucial legislative levers. Like being able to sort of have a lot more control over what goes in the NDAA. Having leverage to negotiate the federal budget, which will be key to a lot of the economic legislation we discuss, like being able to negotiate cuts from pandemic level spending, blocking things like the child, you know, from making things like the child tax credit permanent. So it's really honestly a slim majority in a lot of respects can accomplish a lot in terms of oversight as well. Just having control of those committees is so key to being able to subpoena the federal government for information, for testimony, for documents, for officials to appear at public hearings. That is all, pretty critical to being able to perform effective oversight and can really give congress some some soft power to make real change.

NIALA: Andrew Solender is a congressional reporter for Axios. Thanks Andrew.

ANDREW: Thank you.

NIALA: That’s it for us today! By the way - we’re going to be producing some extra podcast episodes this week - and you can also find me on Twitter spaces talking about the midterm elections with Axios reporters. What questions do you want us to answer? You can DM on twitter or text me at (202) 918-4893. And tune in for some extra conversations on the midterm elections this week.

And if you haven’t already - I hope you can make time to vote tomorrow

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

NIALA: Drew Barrymore wants to give you good news on the go. Every week on her new podcast, “Drew’s News”, Drew is joined by special guests like Rob Lowe and Jay Shetty, to help her break down the latest quirky, fun, and inspiring stories in the world. Think the newest interior design trends, “Barbiecore”, and more. Catch new episodes of Drew’s News every Friday wherever you get your podcasts.

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