Harris says rights under assault from ‘extremist so-called leaders’

Vice President Harris told a gathering at a civil rights conference Monday that Americans’ freedoms are under assault from “extremist so-called leaders” looking to curtail access to abortion services and enact voting restrictions.  

“We must recognize there are those who are fighting to drag us backward,” Harris said in keynote remarks at the NAACP National Convention in Atlantic City, N.J. “Extremist so-called leaders who are attempting to undermine our democracy and assault our most fundamental freedoms.”  

Harris didn’t single out specific officials or states, but she alluded to Republican-led efforts to restrict access to abortion following the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade as well as voting restrictions put in place by GOP-controlled state legislatures. 

Harris linked the two, calling the right to vote “the freedom that unlocks all others.”

She lambasted efforts underway in some states to restrict a woman’s ability to have an abortion, arguing that the government should not have a say in a woman’s personal health care decisions.  

“It’s important to note that to support a woman’s ability — not her government but her — to make that decision does not require anyone to abandon their faith or their beliefs. It just requires us to agree the government shouldn’t be making that decision for her,” said Harris, who has been a leading voice for the Biden administration on abortion rights since the court’s conservative majority struck down Roe. 

The vice president also argued that Republicans opposed to gun restrictions were infringing on Americans’ rights to safety, noting that gun violence has a disproportionate impact on Black communities.

“Scenes of ordinary life have been turned into war zones by horrific acts of gun violence,” she said, calling for further action from Congress to ban assault-style weapons.  

Harris urged her audience to vote for Democratic candidates “up and down the ballot” and said Democrats needed to elect two more senators in order to change the legislative filibuster.  

“Freedom, liberty and democracy are on the ballot this fall, and we need to make sure that our voices are heard,” Harris said.  

President Biden has endorsed changing the filibuster to pass election reform and abortion rights bills with a simple majority in the Senate, but he’s faced opposition from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).  

In the wake of the Roe decision, Biden signed an executive order to protect access to abortion medication and women who travel out of state to receive an abortion. 

But some advocates have called on the administration to take more aggressive action, beyond calling on Americans to vote for lawmakers supportive of abortion rights.  

Harris also used Monday’s appearance to champion the administration’s equity agenda, highlighting efforts to invest in historically Black colleges and universities, eliminate racial discrimination in housing, and bolster maternal health.  

Her mention of Biden’s nomination of the first Black female Supreme Court justice — Ketanji Brown Jackson — also received a loud round of applause from the audience.  

Tags abortion rights Biden gun violence Kamala Harris New Jersey Roe v. Wade
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