Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the annual gala for the pro-choice group Emily’s List on Tuesday night and vowed that the country was not going back to the days before Roe v. Wade, when abortion was illegal.
In a speech that came hours after Politico published a draft opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito that made clear the high court was preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, Harris offered a preview of how her party will highlight the forthcoming decision in the 2022 midterm elections and beyond.
“It has never been more clear which party wants to lead us forward, and which party must push us back. You know, some Republican leaders, they want to take us back to a time before Roe v. Wade, back to a time before Obergefell v. Hodges, back to a time before Griswald v. Connecticut. But we’re not going back. We are not going back. Because at our core, the strength of our country is that we fight to move forward.”
In its 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court established the right for same-sex couples to marry, while in the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut the court codified the right for people to buy birth control free of government restrictions. Democrats fear that Republicans are intent on challenging both decisions and that the court's emboldened conservative majority may go after other precedents.
Yet while Harris, like former fellow Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, blasted the draft opinion and vowed that America would not return to a pre-Roe world, she also acknowledged that there would be little her party could do in the short term to prevent that fate from befalling much of the country.
“At this very moment, Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land, but let’s talk about what a world without Roe looks like,” Harris said. “Women in almost half the country could see their access to abortion severely limited. In 13 of those states, women would lose access to abortion immediately and outright. Those Republican leaders who are trying to weaponize the use of the law against women, well we say, ‘How dare they! How dare they tell a woman what she can do and cannot do with her own body! How dare they!’”
With two key Democratic senators — Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — refusing to vote to abolish the filibuster, there is no chance the party will be able to codify Roe into protecting the nationwide right to abortion.
Yet the likelihood that Roe will soon be overturned is seen as having the potential to energize Democratic voters in midterm elections that they had been expected to lose. To make their case, Democrats were quick to remind voters Tuesday that if the party does still relinquish control of Congress and lose the presidency in 2024, Republicans could push legislation to ban abortion nationwide.
“When we look at the big picture, those who attack Roe have been clear: They want to ban abortion in every state,” Harris said. “They want to bully anyone who seeks or provides reproductive health care and they want to penalize and punish women for making these decisions.”
Whether the candidate to take on Republicans in 2024 will be Biden, Harris or someone else remains to be seen. But Harris’s speech seemed intended at least in part as a blueprint on how to galvanize Democratic voters.
“We must link arms in this fight,” she said. “Stand with us! Because, you see, women’s issues are America’s issues.”