Kamala Harris’ fight for reproductive freedom takes center stage in 2024

Kamala Harris’ fight for reproductive freedom takes center stage in 2024

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks about the implementation of Florida's extreme abortion ban at an event May 1, 2024, in Jacksonville, Fla. Harris has been the White House's first line of defense after President Joe Biden's faltering performance in last week's debate with Donald Trump. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

By Sophie Boudreau

July 3, 2024

In the two years since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Vice President Kamala Harris has become a strong, passionate voice for reproductive rights. 

When the Supreme Court issued its decision overturning Roe v. Wade, ending the federal right to an abortion, women and reproductive rights advocates found themselves simultaneously experiencing outrage, despondency, and renewed passion.  

In the two years since the court’s decision, Democrats have doubled down on promises to preserve abortion rights in as many states as possible while they work to restore the protections of Roe, while many right-wing leaders are citing the court’s overturning of Roe as a precedent for promoting increasingly extreme restrictions on reproductive healthcare. 

For Vice President Kamala Harris, the reignited battle for reproductive freedom and abortion access has provided a renewed opportunity for leadership as she’s become the Biden administration’s most vocal and visible advocate in the fight for reproductive rights. 

Vice president’s record, personal identity lends credibility to stances 

Harris’ position as a staunch defender of reproductive freedom is years in the making. 

During her term as California’s attorney general, she joined attorneys general from 13 other states in urging the US Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that significantly restricted abortion access in Texas. 

“Every woman has the right to make informed choices about her health and well-being,” Harris said in 2016. “I strongly urge the Supreme Court to overturn the Fifth Circuit ruling, which undermines both public health and a woman’s right to choose.”

And during her time as a US Senator from 2017 through 2020, Harris voted against a proposed amendment that would have prohibited federal funding for abortion services. 

Her stances are also further informed by her status as the first female vice president and her multiracial background, a particularly meaningful distinction as many challenges to reproductive and maternal healthcare disproportionately affect women of color. 

“My mother was a breast cancer researcher, and she was one of the very few scientists doing that work who was a woman and, in particular, as a woman of color,” Harris said during a 2022 appearance in Connecticut.

“And so, this is an issue—the issue of women’s health, the importance of women receiving the care they need and deserve, the issue of recognizing women who have been marginalized, the issue of fighting for the dignity of women in the healthcare system was ingrained in me literally from the time I can remember as a child.”

In the hours and days immediately following the court’s decision overturning Roe, Harris was quick to step out front as the administration’s key voice on reproductive rights.

“Millions of women in America will go to bed tonight without access to the healthcare and reproductive care that they had this morning; without access to the same healthcare or reproductive healthcare that their mothers and grandmothers had for 50 years,” Harris said during an Illinois appearance the same day Roe was overturned.

Harris was also quick to share concerns about the broader implications of the court’s ruling, which she said threatened America’s “fundamental principle about the importance of liberty” and might extend to other personal freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. 

“I think he just said the quiet part out loud,” Harris told CNN in June 2022, referencing Justice Clarence Thomas’ statements regarding potential ruling reversals on same-sex marriage and birth control access in the wake of overturning Roe. “And I think that is why we all must really understand the significance of what just happened. This is profound.” 

Harris spent much of the rest of that year advocating for reproductive rights. In the months after Roe was overturned, a White House statement said, the vice president “held more than 50 convenings in at least 16 states while bringing together hundreds of state legislators, state attorneys general, health care providers, faith leaders, students, and advocates who are on the frontlines of the fight for reproductive rights.”

Harris’ nationwide tour emphasizes risks of second Trump term

As the 2024 presidential election approaches, Harris’ role as an outspoken advocate for abortion rights has bolstered the Biden administration’s standing on the issue. While President Joe Biden himself has spoken out in support of restoring Roe, Harris’ lived experiences lend additional credibility to the ticket. 

And as far-right groups like the Heritage Foundation, in conjunction with some conservative lawmakers, have targeted everything from in-vitro fertilization (IVF) access to birth control since Roe was overturned, Harris has expanded her public appearances across the country to speak out about reproductive rights. 

In December 2023, Harris announced her “Fight For Reproductive Freedoms” tour, which kicked off on January 22 of this year—the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade—and has seen the vice president address reproductive freedom and extreme, Republican-backed abortion bans across battleground states, including Arizona, Florida, and Nevada. 

The tour’s purpose, a White House statement explained, is for Harris to “host events that highlight the harm caused by these abortion bans while sharing stories of those who have been impacted.” 

Her work as a leading voice for reproductive rights allows her to “hold extremists accountable for proposing a national abortion ban, call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe, and outline steps the Administration is taking to protect access to health care,” the White House statement continued. 

In March, Harris even became the first sitting US president or vice president to visit an abortion clinic when she toured a Planned Parenthood facility in Minnesota. 

During her appearances, Harris has also taken a more direct approach in highlighting the stakes of a potential second Trump term. 

“Donald Trump handpicked three members of the United States Supreme Court because he intended for them to overturn Roe. And as he intended, they did,” she told a crowd during an appearance in Florida in May. “Here’s what a second Trump term looks like: more bans, more suffering, less freedom.”

RELATED: A red state abortion ban nearly killed his wife. Now he’s speaking out.

  • Sophie Boudreau

    Sophie Boudreau is a writer and editor with nearly a decade of experience covering lifestyle, culture, and political topics. She previously served as senior editor at eHow and produced Michigan and Detroit content for Only In Your State.

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