Jennifer Shutt, Georgia Recorder
January 23, 2024
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris moved abortion access to the forefront of their reelection bid Tuesday by making it the centerpiece of their first joint campaign rally of the 2024 election cycle.
“With your voice, with your power, with your vote, we can restore the protections that have been around for over 50 years under Roe v. Wade,” Biden said to a crowd at George Mason University in Manassas, Virginia, on the same day voters were going to the polls in the New Hampshire primary.
“Give me a Democratic House of Representatives and give me a bigger Democratic Senate,” he said. “And we will pass a new law restoring the protections of Roe v. Wade, and I will sign it immediately.”
Biden spoke on the stage of the Hylton Performing Arts Center, surrounded by red-and-blue signs that read “Defend Choice” and “Restore Roe.”
Protesters calling for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas repeatedly interrupted the rally, though Biden-Harris supporters in the audience chanted “four more years” or “let’s go Joe” in an attempt to drown out the nearly dozen people who took turns throughout the speech criticizing the president.
One protester shouted, “How many kids have you killed?” and another yelled, “Israel kills two mothers every hour,” according to White House pool reports.
Warnings of national abortion ban
Harris, speaking before Biden, said that another Republican administration in the White House would try to implement a nationwide ban on abortions, a new possibility given the Supreme Court’s actions in 2022.
“In the 19 months since, in states across our nation, extremists have proposed and passed laws that criminalize doctors and punish women — laws that make no exception even for rape and incest,” Harris said.
“And let us all agree, one does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to agree the government should not be telling her what to do with her body,” Harris added.
Amanda Zurawski, a Texas woman who has filed a lawsuit against the state, told the rally of how after “grueling” fertility treatments she learned when she was 18 weeks pregnant that her cervix had prematurely dilated and her membranes had ruptured.
“We were, with 100% certainty, going to lose our baby girl. We were devastated,” Zurawski said. “What I needed at that point was an abortion, so I could safely and with dignity, deliver my daughter. I needed to begin the healing process, both physically and emotionally. But unfortunately, this was post-Roe Texas.”
The abortion laws in Texas meant she would have to wait until she was sick enough for her life to be considered endangered before a doctor could provide an abortion. That happened after three days and going into septic shock, Zurawski said.
“What I went through was nothing short of barbaric and it didn’t need to happen, but it did because of Donald Trump,” Zurawski said. “Over and over again, Donald Trump brags about killing Roe v. Wade. It is unthinkable to me that anyone could cheer on these abortion bans that nearly took my life.”
Dobbs decision aftermath
The Supreme Court first recognized a constitutional right to abortion in 1973 during the landmark Roe v. Wade case that has been a fulcrum of American politics ever since.
The nine justices on the high court reaffirmed the right to end a pregnancy during their 1992 decision in Casey v. Planned Parenthood.
But the court, including three justices nominated by Trump, overturned the nationwide right to an abortion in 2022 in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, when the conservative justices wrote, “the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”
Conservative state legislatures have moved to implement strict restrictions on abortion access and in some cases approved bans in the nearly two years since that ruling, leading to a patchwork of access and confusion among medical professionals.
The same Supreme Court is expected to hear two additional cases on abortion access this year: one regarding pregnancy termination in emergency medical circumstances and another concerning access to a pharmaceutical used in medication abortions and miscarriage care.
Both of those rulings are expected to come out this summer, just months before voters will head to the polls in November to decide control of the White House, House and Senate.
‘He intended for them to overturn Roe’
Speaking in front of the crowd in Virginia on Tuesday, Harris noted that Trump “handpicked” the three Supreme Court justices he nominated because he “intended for them to overturn Roe, he intended for them to take your freedoms.”
“He is the architect of this health care crisis and he is not done,” Harris said. “And the extremists are not done.”
Harris noted that since the Supreme Court overturned the nationwide right to abortion, Democrats and Republicans in several states have placed protections on abortion and reproductive access into their state constitutions by placing the issue directly on the ballot.
“Since Roe was overturned, tens of millions of Americans in red states and blue marched to the polls in defense of fundamental freedoms,” she said. “The voice of the people has been heard and it will be heard.”
Biden said that Trump was counting on voters to stop caring or vote on issues other than reproductive rights and abortion access during the election. But he called on Americans not to forget the differences between Democrats and Republicans on abortion and other issues.
“I believe 2024 is going to be the most important election we’ve had since 1860,” Biden said, referring to the election of President Abraham Lincoln before the Civil War.
“The reasons are clear. Democracy is on the ballot. Freedom is on the ballot,” Biden added. “Like the freedom to choose; the freedom to vote; the freedom to love who you want; the freedom to go to work, go to school, go to your house of worship without fear of being gunned down by a weapon of war.”
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