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GOP nominee for special Michigan House election says he opposes abortion ‘without exception’

Josh Powell, a candidate for a special Michigan House election this month, said during a GOP event that he opposes all abortion “without exception” — and, if elected, is open to repealing the state’s landmark abortion law.

By Jon King, Michigan Advance - April 02, 2024
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Abortion protest Michigan
FILE - In this Friday, June 24, 2022, file photo, abortion rights protesters cheer at a rally following the United States Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, federally protected right to abortion, outside the state capitol in Lansing, Mich. The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, that county prosecutors can enforce the state's 91-year-old abortion ban, paving the way for abortion to become illegal in parts of the state.

Josh Powell, a candidate for a special Michigan House election this month, said during a GOP event that he opposes all abortion “without exception” — and, if elected, is open to repealing the state’s landmark abortion law.

Powell is the Republican nominee running for Wayne County’s 25th House District, which includes the cities of Wayne and Westland. His opponent is Democrat Peter Herzberg, a Westland City Council member. 

There are two special elections slated for April 16 that will determine party control of the Michigan House, which is currently split 54-54 after two Democratic members stepped down last year.

Both Powell and Herzberg won special primary elections held in January, which were set following the resignation of former state Rep. Kevin Coleman (D-Westland) in November after he won election as Westland mayor.

Another special election is also being held for the 13th House District, which includes Macomb and Wayne counties, as well as the city of Warren and a small part of Detroit. Former state Rep. Lori Stone (D-Warren) represented the district until she was elected Warren mayor in November. Democrat Mai Xiong, a Macomb County commissioner, is facing off against Republican Ronald Singer, an engineering professional.

Both districts are Democratic strongholds, with both Xiong and Herzberg considered favorites to win.

In a recording of the event lasting one hour and 45 minutes reviewed by the Advance, Powell is approached by an attendee who asked about his stance on abortion during a Feb. 12 Valentine’s Day dance hosted by the 6th Congressional District Republican Committee at the Golden Gate Banquet Hall in Canton.

“This is my first election voting, and I just want to make sure that the candidate that I’m voting for shares my values,” stated the attendee. “I looked at your website, like cutting taxes, cutting regulations, I’m for all of that, but I come from a Christian family …”

“Yeah, me, too,” said Powell. “My grandpa was a Southern Baptist preacher.”

On his campaign website biography, Powell states: “I was born to a 16-year-old mother who ignored advice to abort me because she was too young, yet finished high school on time as the valedictorian.”

The attendee said: “So abortion is a really important topic for me, and a really personal topic for me. So I just wanted to get confirmation from you that you are 100% pro life and that when you’re in government, that you’re going to act that way, that you’re going to govern that way.”

Powell then responded: “Yeah. No. I mean, personally, I’m 100% pro life. I know Prop 3 kind of takes away the choice in the Legislature, but if there’s any opportunities to go that route…”

Powell appears to be referring to Proposal 3, also known as the Reproductive Freedom for All amendment, which passed 57 to 43% in November 2022.

It amended Michigan’s constitution to ensure Michiganders’ right to carry out decisions relating to pregnancy, including abortion, birth control, prenatal care and childbirth. The amendment invalidated a 1931 state law that banned abortions, while limiting the regulation of abortion care to only after fetal viability, or if “an attending health care professional” determined it was “medically indicated to protect the life or physical or mental health of the pregnant individual.”

The attendee then asked: “But on principle, 100% pro-life, without exception?” 

“Yeah. Me personally? Yeah,” Powell responded.

“OK. That reassuring,” said the attendee, who then asked if Powell had any plans “to fight for that” once he was in government.

“I mean, right now all I can really do is stand in the way of expanding it, but I mean, if there’s opportunities that come up, you know, if people want to revisit. … I know there’s already things underway to … revisit Prop 3, put it back on the ballot, you know, that sort of thing. So yeah. I mean, if we can get something with enough signatures, then I can, you know, we can pass it through the House without having to go through the voting process.”

In November, anti-abortion groups led by Right to Life of Michigan filed a lawsuit to overturn Proposal 3. Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, has filed a motion to dismiss the case.

Outside of court remedies, Proposal 3 would need to be altered via voters because it is part of Michigan’s Constitution, through either a citizen-initiated petition, a legislative joint resolution approved by a two-thirds majority of both the state House and Senate or the establishment of a constitutional convention

All three options would require ultimate approval by the voters, despite Powell’s comment about not “having to go through the voting process.”

Reproductive rights have remained a key political issue following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Most recently it has drawn attention following an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that said embryos had the same legal rights as people, thus endangering the right for people to utilize vitro fertilization (IVF). While the Alabama legislature later passed a bill to exempt IVF, attempts to do the same in Congress have been blocked by Republicans.

When asked by the Advance to expand on his comments heard on the recording, Powell sent the following response: “I have no idea who this is or what you are talking about but if someone is secretly recording me that is extremely inappropriate disrespectful and just plain creepy. I will be blocking this email now and not responding to this harassment any further.”

The Advance also reached out to the Republican State Leadership Committee, which has not yet responded.

Herzberg was also asked to comment, but he did not respond.

This story was originally published in the Michigan Advance


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