‘We won’t back down’: Kamala Harris slams the GOP on abortion

In a direct challenge to Republicans, Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to the home state of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday to announce her party’s commitment to restoring abortion rights to every American.

Harris intended the bold speech in Tallahassee, where state lawmakers last year passed a law banning abortions after 15 weeks of gestation, to send an unequivocal signal that Democrats are not willing to give up access to the procedure to women in red states like Florida.

“The right of every woman in every state in the country to make decisions about her own body is at stake,” Harris told a crowd at the Moon, a concert venue less than two miles from the state capitol building.

Harris spoke on the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that protected the legal right to abortion until it was overturned by a 6-3 conservative majority in the Supreme Court last year.

In the seven months since the court struck out Roe’s case, the battle over abortion rights has shifted to the role of the state. Republican-led states moved quickly to enact new restrictions on the measure. Some have banned it almost entirely. Abortion advocates, clinics and providers are challenging abortion restrictions or bans in court in at least 14 states, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“We will not back down,” Harris told the audience. “We know this battle will not be won until we secure this right for every American.”

In Florida, where the state Supreme Court is reviewing a legal challenge to a 15-week abortion ban, anti-abortion activists are pushing for more restrictions. Florida abortion providers say they’ve seen more patients from states like Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, all of which are under stricter bans.

“Florida is the epicenter of states’ rights on abortion care,” Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood members, told The Times Saturday as she boarded a bus from West Palm Beach to Tallahassee. “There are still a lot of dangers here.”

Goodhue was one of hundreds of people who traveled across the state to hear Harris speak, she said, with buses coming from Naples, Fort Myers, Orlando and Gainesville. According to Harris’ office, about 1,200 people attended the speech.

In recent months, the vice president has embraced a role as the face of the Biden administration’s push to preserve access to abortion and women’s reproductive rights. She has met with leaders from 38 states to discuss attacks on reproductive rights and has invited nearly 200 state legislators from 18 states to discuss pending legislation, according to a Harris aide.

Democrats view abortion as a pivotal issue heading into 2024 after it lifted the party in key swing states and helped dampen what some analysts had predicted would be a red wave in the November midterm elections.

Midterm voters in Pennsylvania and Michigan — two battleground states — rated abortion before inflation as their number one concern, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. In five states where abortion was on the ballot, including more conservative states like Kentucky and Montana, voters supported abortion protections.

A July survey found that 53% of American adults said they disapprove of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, compared to 30% of respondents who agreed, according to the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

White House aides argue that the challenge for Republicans will be how to navigate a national landscape tilted in favor of abortion protection. The GOP has struggled to find a unified message on abortion rights, with members of the party’s right wing calling for a national ban while moderates remaining wary of alienating swing voters.

Anti-abortion activists descended on Washington on Friday for the annual March for Life to celebrate victory in their decades-old fight to overturn federal abortion protections. House Majority Leader Steve Scales (R-LA) told the crowd that the movement needed to plan for “the next steps in the post-Roe era.”

“States like Florida are at a crossroads,” said a White House official, who was granted anonymity to discuss the vice president’s speech before delivering it. “The Republicans have to decide who they are and the Democrats have made their position clear.”

DeSantis — a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate — has indicated he’s open to more abortion restrictions but has yet to heed calls for an additional ban on abortions after six weeks, when fetal cardiac activity can be detected. DeSantis’ office did not respond to a request for comment.

Abortion rights opponents insist their position is still winning in the election. “Bold, pro-life conservatives like Ron DeSantis who are committed to signing protections for unborn children and their mothers-in-law…surfed for re-election by a wide margin last November,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, chair of the Susan B. Anthony Brough – Life America said in a statement before Harris’ speech.

She added that Harris “could not have established a stark contrast between the radical abortion lobby and the sympathy and common sense of the American people.” “We encourage GOP leaders to radicalize their opponents and will work tirelessly to educate voters during the 2024 election cycle.”

Although President Biden has taken some executive action to protect reproductive rights, the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe and Republican control of the House left the administration with few options.

Harris announced Sunday that Biden would sign a presidential memorandum directing some members of his cabinet to recommend measures to protect doctors and patients who want abortion pills. This month, the Food and Drug Administration finalized a rule that would allow women to receive abortion pills by mail in states where the procedure is legal.

Medical abortion accounts for more than half of all abortions in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. But despite the FDA’s rule change, some GOP-led states have passed laws that require a physician’s presence when dispensing medications.

Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, Federal Planned Parenthood, said that while Biden’s new memorandum is accurate, it is a “bold declaration” about the role the federal government should play in combating abortion.

“There’s no silver bullet for the situation we’re in right now…especially with this Congress,” Johnson said. “But the role of the federal government is to make sure that people are not discriminated against…and it is to ensure that no country is allowed to hold any of the rest of us hostage to hostile legislators.”

In a statement on Sunday, Biden said “Women should be able to make these deeply personal decisions free from political interference.” Yet Republicans in Congress and across the country continue to push for a national abortion ban, criminalization of doctors and nurses, and making access to the means Contraception is more difficult. It’s dangerous, extreme and far from reality.”

The President also issued a proclamation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade despite its cancellation.

Harris reiterated the administration’s calls for Congress to enshrine abortion protections in federal law. But the Democratic-controlled Senate does not have the votes to pass such legislation, and House Republicans have already used their newfound majority to pass two anti-abortion measures. One GOP bill condemns attacks on anti-abortion facilities, including crisis pregnancy centers. Another threat threatens up to five years in prison for doctors who refuse to intervene medically in the extremely rare cases in which a fetus survives an abortion and is born alive. It is unlikely that either of them will get a vote in the Senate.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *