Kamala Harris blasts ‘plain old immoral’ abortion bans during historic visit to Planned Parenthood clinic

VP’s visit comes as Joe Biden campaign is expected to make reproductive rights a central issue in 2024

John Bowden
Washington DC
Thursday 14 March 2024 21:31 GMT
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Vice-president Kamala Harris put the battle over reproductive rights on centre stage as the Biden-Harris re-election bid seeks to capitalise on strong opposition to conservative victories ahead of November’s showdown with Donald Trump.

Ms Harris was in Minnesota on Thursday where she appeared at a Planned Parenthood clinic in St Paul which provides abortion services, although details of the visit are under stricter guard than what would typically be released about a campaign stop headlined by the vice-president. The visit was first reported by NBC News just a day before it was set to occur, and the news was not attributed to any White House spokesperson, only sources with knowledge of Ms Harris’s plans.

Her visit is thought to be the first time any sitting president or vice president has appeared at a clinic that provides abortion services.

Ms Harris’s tour of the clinic was not in front of the cameras; she spoke to reporters at a press conference alongside Planned Parenthood staff following her meetings with doctors and patients inside the facility. In her remarks, she denounced what she said were “plain old immoral” bans on abortion care that she said were leaving women without access to a wide range of care in many areas across the US.

“How dare these elected leaders believe they are in a better position to tell women what [doctors] need to tell them, and what is in their best interest?” demanded the vice-president.

“I'm here at this health care clinic, to uplift the work that is happening in Minnesota as an example of what true leadership looks like. Which is to understand it is only right and fair, that people have access to the health care they need, and that they have access to health care in an environment where they are treated with dignity and respect,” Ms Harris continued.

Kamala Harris speaks during a visit to the St Paul Health Center (REUTERS)

Her remarks were pointedly more explicit in their terminology than those of the president, who does not frequently use the word “abortion” in remarks about reproductive rights and has been pounded by pro-choice groups for avoiding its mention. She took that criticism head-on at the press conference.

“So everyone, get ready for the language: uterus,” said Ms Harris. “That part of the body needs a lot of medical care from time to time. Issues like fibroids ... breast cancer screenings, contraceptive care, that is the kind of work that happens here. In addition, of course, to abortion care.”

Unlike in other states where abortion restrictions are tighter, Planned Parenthood operates more than 10 locations across Minnesota. The vice-president’s visit, which will also include a more traditional campaign stop, will take place in the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St Paul.

Ms Harris and Joe Biden have launched an aggressive campaign schedule over the month of March and may be seeking to gain momentum for their re-election bid as rival Donald Trump’s legal woes (and the associated financial costs) pile up. The two are set to visit North Carolina in the coming days, while Mr Biden was in another swing state, Wisconsin, on Wednesday.

Reproductive rights are set to be a central campaign issue for Democrats up and down the ballot in 2024 following the party’s success with running on the issue in the 2022 midterms. That cycle ended with disappointment for their Republican opponents, who saw a Democratic majority expand slightly in the Senate while they were only able to carve out a thin, unsteady majority in the House of Representatives (which has since trickled further down into single digits). Some of the best-performing Democrats nationwide that year were purple-state candidates like Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, who won re-election while embracing a strong defence of reproductive freedoms.

Mr Biden himself condemned the decision of the Supreme Court tossing out abortion protections established in Roe v Wade during his State of the Union address last week, notably doing so while the court’s justices were present in the chamber to hear his remarks.

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