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GOP gubernatorial candidates on emergency contraception

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GOP gubernatorial candidates on emergency contraception

Jul 05, 2022 | 5:50 pm ET
By Ruth Conniff
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GOP gubernatorial candidates on emergency contraception
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Tim Michels speaks at the Republican Party of Wisconsin's 2022 state convention. (Screenshot | WisEye)

Wisconsin’s Republican gubernatorial candidates celebrated when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month, eliminating federally protected abortion rights at any stage of pregnancy. All of the GOP candidates support Wisconsin’s 1849 felony abortion ban, which remains on the books, making all abortion illegal, even in cases of rape and incest. The only exceptions are cases where abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother.

Recently, the candidates have been pressed on what they would do about medication abortion and emergency contraception or “morning after pills,” which women can use to end pregnancies safely at home.

On Tuesday, Molly Beck of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Marine Corps veteran Kevin Nicholson both said they would not ban Plan B and other medications taken immediately after sex to prevent pregnancy. (Nicholson has since dropped out of the Republican primary.)

“No birth control will be illegal when I’m governor of the state of Wisconsin,” Kleefisch said in a June 21 interview.

In a recording from a meeting of the Calumet County Republicans, a voter told Tim Michels, the construction company executive who is leading the race for governor in the most recent Marquette University Law School poll of Republican primary voters, “I’m concerned about babies’ lives being lost to these abortion pills that are being passed off as contraception.”

“You’re 100% pro-life, right?” the voter asked.

“Yeah, I’m pro-life,” Michels responded.

“So what are your plans for dealing with that?” the voter asked.

Michels, referring to the day the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision overturning Roe v. Wade, said, “Last Friday, in my opinion, was a great day for America.” 

“I believe that God is unhappy with a country that allows for the killing of babies,” Michels continued. “And I’ll tell you what, I think there’s two victims of abortion. There’s the baby whose life was just taken away. And there’s the mother, the would-have-been mother, who’s going to carry that emotional baggage with her for the rest of her life.”

“I’m pro-life because of my faith and I will not apologize for it,” Michels added to applause.

“Do you have plans to deal with these pills?” the voter asked.

“They’ll be illegal in Wisconsin,” Michels said.

“In his own words, Tim Michels has told us his extreme plan — he opposes any exceptions to Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban for rape or incest and he has now declared he would go even futher and ban emergency contraception,” Joanna Beilman-Dulin, research director at A Better Wisconsin Together, a state-based research and communications hub for progressives, said in a statement.

A Better Wisconsin Together released the recording of Michels speaking on the issue in a press release. 

The Michels campaign told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Michels was referring to medication abortion in his comments, which can be used at home to end an early-stage pregnancy, not emergency contraception, commonly known as the “morning-after pill” which can be used within hours of sex to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. 

“Most Wisconsinites believe politicians like Tim Michels have no business making decisions about if, when or how someone becomes a parent. While his campaign staff may try to spin away what Tim Michels said, it’s his own words showing how extreme and out of touch he is with the rest of us,” Beilman-Dulin concluded.