Vice President Kamala Harris brought her abortion rights tour to California on Monday, elevating the issue in a left-leaning state as Democrats nationwide warn that Republicans could enact a federal ban on the procedure if they take control of Congress on election day.
At an event at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose, Harris applauded the state for having some of the nation’s strongest abortion access protections but rallied California voters to remain “vigilant” and to take the issue seriously in congressional races in November.
“Don’t get too comfortable,” said Harris, who has also traveled to Virginia and Wisconsin to rally for reproductive rights ahead of the election. “Let’s understand: None of us can afford to sit back and think, ‘Thank God we’re in California.’”
The vice president’s visit to the liberal Bay Area comes as Democrats hammer the issue in campaigns to flip some of the state’s Republican-held districts in order to gain control of the House of Representatives. With several potential toss-up districts, California is considered pivotal to the Democratic Party’s goal.
Likely Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has taken credit for and applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade but has stopped short of endorsing a national abortion ban. Abortion-rights advocates do not trust Trump and fear that the continuance of a Republican-majority House could risk the loss of more reproductive healthcare protections, including access to birth control.
On Monday, Harris portrayed abortion access as a personal freedom that is merely the tip of the iceberg, warning that if empowered, Republicans could also target LGBTQ+ and voting rights. She attempted to cut through deep divisions over the issue based on religious beliefs and focused on policies in red states that do not allow abortion exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
“One does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to agree that the government should not be telling her what to do with her body,” Harris said to applause, calling for a majority to be elected to Congress who “simply agree it’s not the government’s right” to prohibit reproductive healthcare.
Democratic California Sens. Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra joined Harris at Monday’s event, a show of force as Democrats focus on abortion rights in their attempt to hold the White House and win congressional control.
Becerra, who planned to meet with OB-GYN doctors and medical students at the University of California San Francisco following Monday’s event, said that if Democrats regain control of the House and President Biden is reelected, abortion rights nationwide can be restored.
“All I know is that we all gotta be in this one,” Becerra said. “There is nothing we can leave in our pocket.”
Monday’s event, also attended by Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, was repeatedly disrupted by protesters calling for an Israel-Hamas cease-fire. Before being escorted out of the building, protesters chanted that Harris was “complicit in genocide”; in attempts to drown them out, her supporters chanted, “Four more years.”
Harris and Biden, running for a second term, have framed the future of abortion as a fundamental freedom at stake in the election.
California voters in 2022 approved a measure that enshrined reproductive rights in the state Constitution; since then, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed laws that solidify the state as a “safe haven” for doctors and patients.
Under California law, law enforcement agencies are prohibited from helping with out-of-state abortion investigations. California has also moved to broaden the types of providers that can perform abortions and opened training to out-of-state doctors living under “hostile” laws.
Abortion rights advocates fear that the continuance of a Republican-majority House could risk the loss of more healthcare protections. Nearly two dozen states have limited abortion access or banned it altogether.
Last week, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California released a “burn book” that targets a dozen congressional candidates, including Reps. John Duarte (R-Modesto) and David Valadao (R-Hanford), for their voting records on abortion legislation.
“The future of abortion is very much going to be determined over the next 12 months, including in California,” Sue Dunlap, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, told The Times in an interview.
Dunlap said she is concerned about voter fatigue on the issue because of California’s long-held abortion rights protections.
“We don’t get there if we don’t win in California,” Dunlap said. “We’re not living in a country or a world where California exists in and of itself. We have to take these threats seriously.”
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