Vice President Kamala Harris whipped up support among Democrats fighting for access to abortion in her home state on Monday afternoon, lambasting former President Donald Trump and Republicans for their erosion of reproductive rights as the November election nears.
In remarks made at San Jose’s Mexican Heritage Plaza, the nation’s first female vice president described the fight for abortion as “fundamentally about freedom.”
“We have to hustle over these next 10 months,” said Harris, an Oakland native and California’s former top prosecutor. “We can make a difference on this issue.”
Democrats are hoping the battle over abortion will galvanize women voters for this fall’s election and paint a clear distinction between the Biden Administration’s support for reproductive freedoms and the former Republican president’s pro-life stance.
They’re also trying to place sole responsibility for the 2022 overturning of Roe vs. Wade on Trump, who appointed three of the conservative judges that helped reverse a nearly half-century of precedent on abortion. While Trump has described his Supreme Court appointments as one of his greatest achievements, he has distanced himself from further restrictions on abortion, including Gov. Ron DeSantis’ six-week abortion ban. Polls show a wide swath of the female electorate did not agree with the Supreme Court’s decision last year.
“The former president of the United States hand-picked three members of the United States Supreme Court with the intention that they would undo Roe,” said Harris. “Let’s be very clear on that.”
On Monday, Harris also urged voters to support candidates who will help codify abortion rights through a bill in Congress, an effort that has yet to garner enough votes from Democrats.
San Jose’s rally came as dozens of protestors stood outside the city’s Mexican Heritage Plaza, denouncing the Biden Administration’s support for Israel in the conflict against Hamas and calling for a ceasefire right beside those who were lining up to see the vice president. Just moments after the vice president got on stage, protestors interrupted the event with screams of “ceasefire now,” while audience members chanted over their calls with “four more years.”
The vice president’s visit to Northern California’s largest city is part of her nationwide tour on abortion rights just as Trump appears the likely Republican candidate in November after trouncing his competition this month during the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. Harris joined President Joe Biden last week in Virginia as part of the tour, which began on the 51st anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision. She also traveled to North Carolina, South Carolina, Nevada, Georgia, Wisconsin and New York — and will wrap up her travels in March.
On Monday, Harris was joined by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, Sen. Laphonza Butler, Sen. Alex Padilla and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.
“All I know is, we all got to be in this one,” said Becerra, who also served as California’s attorney general until 2021. “There is nothing we can leave in our pocket.”
California remains a strong abortion rights state, with Gov. Gavin Newsom signing a slate of bills in the fall that beefs up protections for reproductive freedoms. In 2022, over two-thirds of voters passed Proposition 1, which enshrined the right to an abortion and access to contraception into the state’s Constitution.
Though Democrats are unlikely to make a dent on abortion rights any time soon through the Supreme Court with its conservative majority, Bay Area residents on Monday said it was clear how supporters of the issue can make a difference: voting.
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“It’s about freedom, it’s about rights,” said Jennifer Gee while waiting in line to see the vice president. “I mean, there’s nothing more precious than what I do with my body and the discussion I might have with my doctor and the experts who know what that condition is. It’s harming women all over the country. There are doctors leaving states because they can’t practice because they’re afraid of getting arrested for saving a woman’s life.”
On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it will hear oral arguments in March and will make a decision later this year on a case challenging the use of mifepristone, an abortion medication. Conservative advocates are petitioning the court to push back on the recent proliferation of the pill, which the Federal Drug Administration has made available through the mail and over-the-counter at pharmacies in recent years.