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As abortion takes center stage, 2 U.S. reps. from Michigan of opposite parties share their thoughts

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Sarah Lehr / WKAR News
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U.S. Representatives Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids, and Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, appear in Lansing on Friday, May 6, 2022 for a roundtable hosted by the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Abortion rights are taking center stage in Michigan and on Capitol Hill.

That’s after documents leaked to Politico this week suggested the U.S. Supreme Court is set to overturn Roe v. Wade, a decision that guarantees a constitutional right to abortion.

In light of that possibility, WKAR’s Sarah Lehr asked two U.S. representatives from Michigan where they stand on abortion rights. The representatives, Elissa Slotkin and Peter Meijer, appeared Friday for a bipartisan discussion hosted by the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Slotkin, D-Holly, is calling on Congress to codify the rights set in Roe v. Wade into federal law.

She joined other Democrats in the House last year in passing a bill to stop states from restricting abortions before a fetus could be viable outside the womb.

Although the proposal is unlikely to clear the Senate, Slotkin supports calling a vote on the matter.

"I want the historical record of members of the Senate and how they vote on something that's so fundamental to our basic rights," she said.

If Roe is overturned, a dormant 1931 law may take effect again in Michigan. That law makes abortions a felony and does not include exceptions for rape or incest.

It does allow abortions done to save a woman’s life, but Slotkin says the law doesn't clearly define that line.

“What if you have diabetes and you're just at elevated risk, but maybe your life isn't at risk at that exact moment?" she said. "You don't know. Or heart disease. Or you're about to go through chemotherapy because you have cancer and that's terrible on a pregnancy."

Meijer describes himself as pro-life but did not directly answer questions Friday about whether he supports Michigan’s dormant abortion law or whether he believes the procedure should be allowed in certain cases. Meijer noted the leaked draft opinion could change and says it’s too soon to comment on the implications of a final decision.

“I think, in general, folks recognize, even many on the pro-choice side, that abortion is not a desired outcome," he said. "I don't think that's a controversial thing to say, and that the goal should be what steps can we take to make sure that that number is reduced as significantly as possible? That includes support for mothers. That includes support for children.”

After being one of 10 Republicans who voted last year to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting a insurrection, Meijer now faces Republican challengers in the Aug. 3 primary for a seat representing West Michigan's newly drawn 3rd district.

His Democratic opponent, Hillary Scholten, lost to Meijer in 2020 and describes herself as pro-choice.

Slotkin flipped Michigan's 8th district from Republican control when she won in 2020.

This year she's running in the redrawn 7th district that includes Lansing. The frontrunner in the Aug. 2 Republican primary to challenge her, Tom Barrett, describes himself as “100%” pro-life.