Michigan Senator Stephanie Chang on The Stakes in the States

Voting rights, abortion access, clean water — there’s a lot at stake in Michigan this November, where ending the rightwing’s unchecked control is within reach. Flipping just three seats in each chamber would empower lawmakers committed to improving lives.

We spoke with Michigan Senator Stephanie Chang to learn what a new majority would mean. Read a snippet of our conversation and listen to the full recording in the tweet below!

The States Project: A topic that will put state legislatures in the spotlight this year is abortion access. The Supreme Court is considering a case out of Mississippi that could potentially end Roe v. Wade as we know it, leaving the question of abortion access up to state lawmakers. If Roe falls, what would the impact of that look like in Michigan?

Sen. Chang: You know we are honestly very concerned in Michigan. We have an antiquated law from 1931 that criminalizes abortion — it was never overturned, never was repealed. So if Roe v. Wade is overturned this year, we will actually go back to this law, which isn’t being enforced currently, but it is still on the books. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, I just want to reiterate, we will have one of the most restrictive laws in the entire country.

And we know that our current leadership does not see a problem with this law despite the fact that it is incredibly restrictive and despite the fact that Michiganders overwhelmingly support upholding Roe v. Wade.

We know that there are so many reasons a person might choose to have an abortion. Ultimately it really is them and their doctor who should decide what to do — not the government. Banning safe, effective abortions is discriminatory, it’s government overreach, and it really could enhance the gap between the priviledged and less privileged in our communities. We know so well from data, over and over again, that there are huge gaps in healthcare and societal outcomes for people of color, low income people, and those who live in very rural areas who might have to drive hours to get abortion care under this really old 1931 criminalization law. 

We have introduced bills several times now to repeal this antiquated law, but due to the Republican majority, those bills have not moved forward. That speaks to how important this November election is — we can change who is in power in the Michigan legislature and finally, finally repeal this law.

The States Project: This question is a bit more abstract. When we talk about what’s at stake in the states, it really highlights how heavy the world feels right now. From the insurrection, to the pandemic, and now the terrifying headlines coming out of Ukraine — a lot of folks feel worn down. But at the end of the day, the only way we can shift power in Michigan, and other states, is if more people engage in this work. What would you say to someone who feels so overwhelmed by politics that they’re tempted to tune out?

Sen. Chang: Well, I’ll tell you what motivates me. I have two young daughters — they are my little motivators, they keep me going. Because it is their generation’s future that we’re fighting for. We know that our current reality is not what they deserve.

I know that it can be overwhelming, it can feel like sometimes there’s a million issues out there, and that sometimes politics is becoming more and more discouraging. But I have so much hope for our future because I also really do believe that we’ve seen such a surge in activism. We’ve seen so many people getting more engaged in saying, “This is what we need, this is what my community deserves.” They are fighting back whether it’s reproductive healthcare, access to abortion or water access or paid sick leave. Please stay engaged, we need you in this fight with us. We need as much help as we can this November to shift power in the Michigan legislature, and finally deliver on the policies that Michiganders need and deserve.

If you want to protect democracy or abortion access, the work starts in the states. In Michigan, we need to flip just three seats in each chamber to end the radical right’s unchecked power. Fill out this form to join us in this work!