Harris speaks out against GOP push to roll back abortion rights

Vice President Kamala Harris criticized efforts in Washington and Republican-led states to restrict abortion in what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wadeinvoking fundamental American values ​​such as the freedom to defend abortion access despite the Supreme Court’s decision of remove constitutional protections for it.

Leading the administration’s response to the Roe commemoration on Sunday, Harris methodically detailed struggles throughout history for certain liberties, such as civil rights and the right to vote for women, and linked them to access to abortion, what Harris called the “fundamental, constitutional right.” of a woman to make decisions about her own body.”

“Can we be truly free if families cannot make intimate decisions about the course of their own lives?” Harris said in a fiery speech to a boisterous crowd of 1,500 in Tallahassee, Florida. “And can we be truly free if the so-called leaders claim to be, quote, quote, in the vanguard of freedom while daring to curtail the rights of the American people and attack the very foundations of freedom?”

Women’s marches demanding protection of abortion rights drew thousands of people across the country on Sunday, the 50th anniversary of the now-overturned Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade who established the federal right to abortion.

Harris described the consequences of abortion restrictions: The 10-year-old girl from Ohio who became pregnant after a rape but had to travel out of state for an abortion. A 35-year-old Texas woman who was denied treatment three times for what turned out to be a miscarriage and developed sepsis, which nearly killed her. A 14-year-old girl in Arizona who was initially unable to obtain medication to control her chronic arthritis, because those medications can also cause pregnancy loss.

“The right of every woman, in every state in this country, to make decisions about her own body is at stake,” Harris said. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: how dare you? How dare you?”

The decision to have Harris speak in Tallahassee, the state capital, reflects how the battle lines have shifted since last summer. Now that there is no longer a national right to abortion, battles over the issue will rage in individual state chambers instead of in the halls of Congress or before the Supreme Court. White House officials last week convened top lawmakers from eight states to discuss the pending legislation.

Also, after performing better than expected in the November election, Democrats view abortion as a key problem for his party in 2024, when control of the White House and both houses of Congress will be at stake at the same time. Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis may seek the Republican presidential nomination, the first step in challenging President Joe Biden, who has been preparing for a re-election campaign.

Before her speech, Harris told abortion rights advocates in a conference call Sunday that they should stay energized as they push back against restrictions in Republican-led states and work on behalf of candidates in local races who support the access to abortion.

“We are fighting for something. History will show that we are on the right side of this issue,” Harris said. “So let’s not get discouraged, let’s not get overwhelmed. This is not a time to throw away our hands. This is a time to roll up our sleeves.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Florida is critical because its abortion rules are less restrictive than those of its neighbors, making it a relatively safe haven for women in the region who They try to terminate their pregnancies. But the Republican-controlled state government could consider more restrictions.

DeSantis’ office did not respond to a request for comment.

Biden, in a statement Sunday, said that “women should be able to make these deeply personal decisions without political interference. Yet Republicans in Congress and across the country continue to push to ban abortion nationwide, to criminalize doctors and nurses, and to make it difficult to access contraception. It’s dangerous, extreme and inappropriate.”

Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who has worked with Biden, said the White House strategy on abortion had three goals.

“It can create an atmosphere and put pressure on these states to make it more difficult to pass draconian restrictions,” he said. Plus, Lake said, “you can set the contrast for 2024” and “you can use this as a great motivator to get people out there to vote.”

Democrats have concluded that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade changed the political landscape for last year’s election, rejuvenating the party’s chances when analysts expected a Republican elimination.

Democrats still lost control of the House and expanded their Senate majority by just one vote, meaning legislation that would create a nationwide abortion right remains out of reach.

There are concerns that Biden and his administration have exhausted their executive stock options.

The Food and Drug Administration Announced this month that abortion pills would be more widely available at pharmacies and by mail order. The pills can also be obtained through a virtual appointment, instead of visiting a doctor’s office.

Now a legal battle is unfolding in federal court in Texas, where opponents of abortion have sued to undo the drugs’ approval for decades.

“The administration is really looking at existing federal law and trying to build on it,” said Lawrence Gostin, who directs the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health at Georgetown Law.

Not all of the administration’s ideas have worked. Biden announced last year that states could apply for waivers to use Medicaid dollars to pay for women’s travel for abortions. No waivers have been requested.

In every state, the fight to protect abortion access is taking place in the courts, with active litigation against abortion restrictions in 14 states, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The nonprofit health organization found that advocates have generally taken one of three approaches to bringing legal challenges against abortion laws by claiming that the laws violate state constitutional protections, infringe on some states’ guaranteed rights to make decisions about health care or block religious liberties.

It is not clear which legal arguments may be more successful, with the highest state courts ultimately decide how accessible abortion will be. Meanwhile, opponents of abortion are seeking ways to use the courts to further restrict abortion.

Renee Bracey Sherman, founder and CEO of the We Testify group, which advocates for women who have had abortions, said she is disappointed Biden hasn’t done more.

“The fact that he is missing in action during this public health emergency is truly shameful,” he said.

Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minnesota, joined Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, last year in calling on Biden to formally declare a public health emergency.

Biden never did, but Smith said she’s pleased with the steps he’s taken.

“It would be hard for me to point to something that they haven’t done that they could have done with a public health emergency,” he said.

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