Gretchen Whitmer: ‘When Something Is Taken From You, What’s Left Behind Has a Purpose’


I turned to Bob, whose face was ashen. “I don’t have any advice,” he said. “I can’t even put myself in your place. You should do whatever you think is right.” We headed back into the chamber, and soon enough, it was my turn to speak. I walked up to the lectern, my prepared speech in hand, still unsure what to do.

“Thank you, madam chair,” I said. “I rise for my ‘no’ vote explanation.” Then I began reading my remarks.

I rise in opposition to the so-called citizens’ initiative before us that would require Michigan women to pay for a separate insurance rider to cover abortions, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their pregnancy.

Apparently, the holiday season of goodwill toward men reads more like your will toward women, as the Republican male majority continues to ignorantly and unnecessarily weigh in on important women’s health issues that they know nothing about.

As a legislator, a lawyer, a woman and the mother of two girls, I think the fact that rape insurance is even being discussed by this body is repulsive, let alone the way it has been orchestrated and shoved through this legislature.

And for those of you who want to act aghast that I’d use a term like “rape insurance” to describe the proposal here in front of us, you should be even more offended that it’s [an] absolutely accurate description of what this proposal requires. This tells women who were raped and became pregnant that they should have thought ahead and bought special insurance for it. . . .

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. This is by far one of the most misogynistic proposals I’ve ever seen in the Michigan legislature.

I delivered my remarks as deliberately and forcefully as possible, letting my anger show. In the back of my mind, though, my thoughts were spinning. For twenty-three years, I had pushed down the awful memory of what happened to me in college. I never in my life imagined talking about it in a public forum. Yet suddenly, in the course of one short speech, with TV cameras rolling, I had to decide whether to reveal my deepest secret to the world. Once it was out, there was no turning back.

My mouth went dry. It was terrifying to think of opening myself up, of telling this room full of mostly men about being assaulted as a young woman. Yet, the longer I spoke, the more I realized I had to do it. With only a few minutes left of my time, I put my papers aside and began speaking off the cuff.

“I have a lot more prepared remarks here,” I said, “but I think it’s important for me to just mention a couple of things.”

I spoke briefly about a woman named Jenny Lane, who had written a letter opposing the bill. I mentioned having “a colleague” whose wife’s pregnancy went awry and required a D&C, taking care not to name him. Finally, I gathered my courage and began speaking the words that I had never imagined saying in public:



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