Michigan Gov. Whitmer Promotes Abortion Access in Effort to Rebuild State Population

Some question the calculus behind promoting abortion to rebuild the state’s plummeting population
Michigan Gov. Whitmer Promotes Abortion Access in Effort to Rebuild State Population
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at an event in National Harbor, Md., on May 4, 2023. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Mark Gilman

According to a report from Bridge Michigan, the State of Michigan has lost an estimated 43,200 people since 2020, a sharp departure from gains made during the previous decade. The nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization also says births in the state have been plummeting, death rising, and more people are leaving Michigan every year than residents are moving in.

With those numbers dogging the office of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, some wonder how her new digital ad campaign touting the easy access of abortion in the state will help those numbers. 

One of the three digital ads currently being run in politically red states by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. (Michigan Economic Development Corporation)
One of the three digital ads currently being run in politically red states by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. (Michigan Economic Development Corporation)

“First, I honestly don’t understand how advocating for politics that reverse the birth rate contributes to population growth. It’s just nuts,” Abby Mitch, the new Executive Director of Michigan Rising Action, said to Epoch Times. “Second, as a taxpayer, the Governor owes it to the people of Michigan to demonstrate what data she’s basing this on.” Michigan Rising is a conservative, non-profit education and advocacy group.  

Michigan ranks 49th in population growth since 1990, ahead of only West Virginia. Still, the digital ad campaign, targeting politically red states including Georgia, Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Indiana, and Tennessee, rankled at least one of those state’s leaders.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s office said that the state’s population, unlike Michigan’s, grew last year and that the $30,000 ad campaign was unlikely to reverse that trend or lure away any of its residents.

“If the State of Michigan believes wasting taxpayer dollars on bragging about their disregard for life is an effective tool to attract workers to their state, they'll be in for quite the surprise,” said Garrison Douglas, press secretary for the Georgia governor. 

“Unlike Michigan, Georgia’s population continues to grow, and our low cost of living environment, exploding and diverse economy, and historic investments in health care, education, and public safety will continue to attract Americans from all over the country to help us fill the thousands of new jobs being created,” Mr. Douglas added.

According to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Gov. Whitmer’s office, the $30,000 in funding for the digital ads was drawn from the agency’s corporate marketing budget, a combination of tribal gaming revenue, fees, and interest and required no legislative approval or taxpayer appropriation. 

The Michigan ads focused on three issues: abortion, civil, and LGBTQ+ rights with phrases such as “In Michigan, all are welcome: Discover the benefits of living in a state that protects your rights,” and “In Michigan all are welcome: Enjoy your right to reproductive freedom.” The overriding message of the campaign touted that Michigan is the place to live if you value diversity and reproductive freedom. 

“Over the last two years, we have seen that the MEDC has been used as her personal sounding board for ramming through anything she thinks looks good in the paper or might make a good MSNBC hit,” said Ms. Mitch.

Gov. Whitmer’s social media statements have also echoed the ad campaign’s theme. For example, in a recent post on X, the former Twitter, she shared a comment from a Texas Reddit resident who negatively viewed the Michigan campaign. Her response? “I wasn’t kidding when I said bigotry is bad for business,“ the governor said in the post. ”If you live in a state trying to restrict your rights and freedoms, move to Michigan.”

“Abortion or hate crime isn’t anyone’s motivation to move anywhere. It’s just pure politics,” Ms. Mitch added.

Political Favorite

In the past few years, the Democratic Party has been pushing Gov. Whitmer into the spotlight with positive features and cover stories in the New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic Magazine.

In June of this year, Vanity Fair made it clear that the Midwest governor’s profile has been rapidly elevating. The magazine quoted Gov. Whitmer saying the country “is long overdue for a strong female chief executive,” adding that the governor would be fundraising for the president and other congressional candidates but not making a bid herself.

According to NBC News, analysts say that Governor Whitmer’s creation of the PAC “puts her in the ranks of Democratic Govs. Gavin Newsom of California and J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, whose involvement in national policy debates and fundraising for federal 2024 races could help them chart courses for their own futures in office, including presidential candidacies.”

Mark Gilman is a media veteran, having written for a number of national publications and for 18 years served as radio talk show host. The Navy veteran has also been involved in handling communications for numerous political campaigns and as a spokesman for large tech and communications companies.
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