VP Kamala Harris in defiant Florida speech on 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade: "How dare they?"

Tallahassee, Florida - In a direct challenge to Republicans, Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' home turf on Sunday to restate the Democratic Party's commitment to restoring abortion rights for every American.

Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Florida on Sunday to give a speech on restoring abortion rights for every American.
Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Florida on Sunday to give a speech on restoring abortion rights for every American.  © REUTERS

Harris intended the defiant speech in Tallahassee, where state legislators last year passed a law outlawing abortions after 15 weeks of gestation, to send an unmistakable signal that her party is not ready to give up on access to the procedure for women in red states like Florida.

"The right of every woman in every state in the country to make decisions about her own body is on the line," Harris told a crowd at the Moon, a concert venue less than two miles from the state Capitol.

Harris spoke on the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that protected the legal right to abortion until the high court's 6-3 conservative majority overturned it last year.

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In the seven months since the court overturned Roe, the battle over abortion rights has shifted to statehouses. Republican-led states have swiftly moved to enact new restrictions on the procedure. Some have outlawed it almost entirely. Abortion rights advocates, clinics and providers are challenging abortion restrictions or bans in court in at least 14 states, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

"How dare they?" Harris asked the crowed, referring to the GOP's efforts.

"We will not back down," she continued. "We know this fight will not be won until we secure this right for every American."

Abortion remains key issue for many voters

Abortion remains a key issue for voters ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
Abortion remains a key issue for voters ahead of the 2024 presidential election.  © REUTERS

In recent months, the vice president has embraced a role as the face of the Biden administration's push to preserve abortion access and women's reproductive rights. She's met with leaders from 38 states to discuss attacks on reproductive rights and convened nearly 200 state legislators from 18 states to hash out pending legislation, according to a Harris aide.

Democrats view abortion as a pivotal issue heading into 2024 after it lifted the party in key swing states and helped to blunt what some analysts expected to be a red wave in November's midterm elections.

Midterm voters in Pennsylvania and Michigan – two battleground states – ranked abortion ahead of inflation as their top concern, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. In five states where abortion was on the ballot, including in more conservative states such as Kentucky and Montana, voters backed abortion protections.

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A survey in July found 53% of US adults said they disapproved of the high court's decision to repeal Roe, compared with 30% of respondents who approved, according to the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Biden will sign a presidential memorandum directing some of his Cabinet members to recommend actions to protect doctors and patients who want to access abortion pills, Harris announced Sunday.

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration finalized a rule allowing women to receive abortion pills by mail in states where the procedure is legal.

Legislation protecting abortion rights unlikely

Harris has been spearheading the Biden administration's push to preserve abortion access and women's reproductive rights.
Harris has been spearheading the Biden administration's push to preserve abortion access and women's reproductive rights.  © REUTERS

In a statement on Sunday, Biden said: "Women should be able to make these deeply personal decisions free from political interference. Yet, Republicans in Congress and across the country continue to push for a national abortion ban, to criminalize doctors and nurses, and to make contraception harder to access. It's dangerous, extreme, and out of touch."

The president also issued a proclamation commemorating the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, despite its repeal.

Harris repeated the administration's calls for Congress to enshrine abortion protections in federal law. But the Democratic-controlled Senate does not have the votes to pass such legislation, and House Republicans have already used their new majority to pass two anti-abortion measures.

One of the GOP bills condemns attacks on anti-abortion facilities, including crisis pregnancy centers. Another threatens up to five years in prison for doctors who refuse to medically intervene in the extremely rare cases in which a fetus survives an abortion procedure and is born alive.

Neither is likely to get a vote in the Senate.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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