Harris says women’s rights are under attack in forceful speech

Associated Press/Patrick Semansky
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the Emily’s List National Conference and Gala, Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in Washington.

Vice President Harris assailed Republicans seeking to restrict access to abortion and declared women’s rights under attack during a forceful speech at an EMILY’s List conference Tuesday evening.

Speaking just 24 hours after a draft opinion leaked suggesting the Supreme Court is poised to overturn the landmark abortion ruling in Roe v. Wade, Harris issued a call to action for voters to elect more pro-abortion rights Democrats to Congress and push back against efforts to restrict access to the procedure.

“Roe v. Wade in its power has protected a woman’s right, her right to make decisions about her own body for nearly half a century,” Harris told the crowd at a hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. “If the court overturns Roe v. Wade, it will be a direct assault on freedom, on the fundamental right to self-determination to which all Americans are entitled.”  

“Those Republicans leaders who are trying to weaponize the use of the law against women,” she continued. “How dare they? How dare they tell a woman what she can do and cannot do with her own body? How dare they? How dare they try to stop her from determining her own future? How dare they try to deny women their rights and their freedoms?”  

The speech was significant for two reasons: Not only did it represent Harris’s first extensive public comments on the Supreme Court bombshell, but it was also her first public appearance since ending her COVID-19 quarantine. Harris tested positive for the virus last week and tested negative six days later, on Monday.    

Harris, who is the first female vice president, underscored the work of EMILY’s List, a political organization dedicated to electing female pro-abortion rights lawmakers, and described the battle for women’s rights as immediate and pressing.  

“There is nothing hypothetical about this moment,” Harris told her audience.  

“We must link arms in this fight. I invite all people to join us. If you stand for freedom, for self-determination, for the right to privacy, if you stand for these principles, stand with us,” she said before concluding her remarks. “Women’s issues are America’s issues, and democracies — democracies cannot be strong if the rights of women are under attack.” 

Politico on Monday evening reported on the leaked draft opinion of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito striking down the 1973 decision in Roe, which recognized a woman’s right to an abortion as constitutionally protected.  

The story sent shockwaves through Washington, both for the gravity of the expected opinion of the conservative majority and the leak itself, which is highly rare for the court.  

On Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts said the court would investigate the leak. The court confirmed the authenticity of the document but also said the opinion was not final.  

Harris is among a slew of Democrats who have rebuked the draft opinion as an assault on women’s reproductive freedoms. President Biden told reporters that the opinion was “radical” and warned it could endanger other rights.   

The White House says it is studying possible responses to a Supreme Court ruling striking down Roe as well as other GOP-led restrictive state abortion laws, but the administration’s authority is limited. 

Abortion advocates estimate that about half of U.S. states could move to enact abortion restrictions if Roe is overturned. An analysis by the Guttmacher Institute found that 13 states have in place “trigger laws” in which near or total bans on abortion would take effect in the event the 1973 decision is overturned.  

Some Democrats are renewing a push to codify Roe into federal law, though Democrats do not currently have the votes in the Senate to pass such a law.  

Tags Abortion EMILY's List Kamala Harris Kamala Harris Roe v. Wade
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