Tudor Dixon, the Republican candidate running for Michigan governor, has made no secret of her fierce opposition to abortion. On the day the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Dixon declared that she was “pro-Life.”
“My only exception is to protect the LIFE of the mother,” she tweeted, in response to a video suggesting she had flip-flopped on abortion. “That has never changed.”
But in an interview only one day before, Dixon suggested that wasn’t quite true.
In a video obtained by VICE News, interviewer Justin Barclay asked Dixon about a Republican-introduced bill that aimed to create a 10-year prison sentence for doctors who perform illegal abortions. Michigan’s current governor, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, would likely veto such a bill, Barclay said, before he asked what Dixon would do if she were governor.
“I am honored to have been endorsed by Right To Life. Life is so important to me,” Dixon said. “I have so many people in my life who, if the doctors looked at that ultrasound, they would have said, ‘You’d be better off not having this child.’ And that’s just the devil’s lie.”
She added, “The dad and moms are being lied to that these are not precious lives.”
Dixon has made a distinction between abortion bans with exceptions for a pregnant person’s “life” (which she has said she supports) compared to bans that offer exceptions to protect their “health.” Doctors have told VICE News that “health” exceptions give them more leeway to follow medical guidelines and keep patients’ health from needlessly deterioating; by only allowing them to perform abortions in life-threatening cases, doctors feel like they are forced to wait until patients are on the cusp of death before they can intervene.
But Dixon’s comment raises questions about whether the candidate trusts doctors’ medical opinions when it comes to abortions, regardless of whether a patient’s health or life is at stake. Some activists within the anti-abortion community like to suggest that predatory doctors are out to bamboozle helpless patients into abortions.
Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Dixon, and she has championed “Michigan First”-style policies, inspired “lock her up” chants at rallies, and mocked Whitmer for being the intended victim of a kidnapping plot. Dixon has taken a similarly hard-line approach to abortion, triggering national headlines when she was asked whether, in a hypothetical example, a raped 14-year-old should carry a pregnancy to term.
“A 14-year-old who, let’s say, is the victim of abuse by an uncle—” Charlie LeDuff, host of the talk show “The No BS Newshour,” started to say.
“Yeah, perfect example,” Dixon interrupted.
“You’re saying carry that?” LeDuff asked.
“No, perfect example,” Dixon said. “The way that this could be set up is you’re protecting that guy, and we’ve got to get those guys in jail.”
After LeDuff pressed her on whether the 14-year-old should have the ability to end the pregnancy, Dixon said, “A life is a life for me. That’s how it is. That is for me, that’s my feeling.”
In response to a VICE News request for comment for this story, a spokesperson for Dixon’s campaign did not address Dixon’s June 23 remarks. Instead, Communications Director Sara Broadwater focused on the “14-year-old” comments.
“Leave it to VICE News to continue the media lie about Tudor's response to the hypothetical 14-year-old rape victim,” Broadwater said in an email. “What she actually said was that it was the perfect example of how a lack of parental consent laws, coupled with abortion-on-demand, actually protects sexual predators by making it more difficult to hold them accountable for their horrendous crimes and prevent them from offending again.”
“Tudor is pro-life but has always supported exceptions for life of the mother. She strongly condemns any sexual assault, which is why she’s put forth a plan to combat sex crimes in Michigan,” Broadwater continued.
Broadwater did not immediately reply after VICE News reiterated the request for comment about Dixon’s June 23 remarks.
In another interview in August, Dixon was asked again about a hypothetical 14-year-old rape victim. She took the opportunity to seemingly suggest that rape is more serious only if it involves abduction.
“I’ve talked to those people who were the child of a rape victim and the bond that those two people made and the fact that out of that tragedy there was healing through that baby, it’s something that we don’t think about, because we assume that that story is someone who was taken from the front yard, then returned,” Dixon said. “That’s generally not the story there.”
In reality, eight in 10 sexual assaults are committed between people who know one another, according to statistics from RAINN, the nation’s premier anti-sexual assault advocacy organization.
Abortion is on the ballot in Michigan in the upcoming midterms, both directly and indirectly, and the race there is likely the nation’s most high-profile electoral battle over abortion. The procedure remains legal in Michigan, although that could change if Dixon wins since Whitmer has served as a legislative bulwark against the Republicans who already control the state Legislature. Abortion rights activists in the state are now pushing for a constitutional amendment that would enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution and protect them no matter who sits in the governor’s chair. Michiganders will vote on that amendment in the midterms.
Dixon’s approach to abortion rights this election is out of step with many of her fellow Republicans, who are downplaying their abortion stances in the wake of the crushing defeat of an anti-abortion constitutional amendment in Kansas.