Why Vice President Harris is going to Wisconsin today to talk about abortion

Why Vice President Harris is going to Wisconsin today to talk about abortion

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Vice President Harris speaks during the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ winter meeting in Washington on Jan. 18, 2024.

Jose Luis Magana/AP

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Jose Luis Magana/AP

Vice President Harris speaks during the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ winter meeting in Washington on Jan. 18, 2024.

Jose Luis Magana/AP

Vice President Harris is kicking off a tour on Monday — the 51st anniversary of landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade — to draw attention to new restrictions on abortion, an issue that Democrats hope will fire up voters for the presidential election in November.

Harris plans to hit about five places during the next two months, including states that have enshrined protections for abortion since the Supreme Court rolled back abortion rights in 2022, states that have restricted access, and states that have threatened to restrict access.

“She is going to connect the dots for people,” a White House official told NPR, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the tour. “She is going to make a clear connection between Roe being overturned, these extreme bans being put into effect by extremists across the country, and what harm those bans have caused for women.”

Since the court’s Dobbs decision ended Roe, voters have turned out in record numbers in states like Michigan and Kansas to support measures to protect reproductive rights with new laws. It’s that energy that Harris is hoping to tap into as she reaches out to voters ahead of the election this year — an election where swing states like Arizona and Nevada may also have ballot initiatives on abortion rights.

The first stop will be in Waukesha County

The vice president’s team picked Wisconsin’s Waukesha County to launch the tour. The politically important state illustrates how people’s lives were affected when Roe was struck down.

Wisconsin effectively banned abortion, reverting to a law written in 1849. For about 15 months, there were no legal abortions available in the state.

Wisconsin is also a key swing state that Democrats want to win in November. Former President Donald Trump carried Waukesha County — a suburb of Milwaukee — in 2016 and 2020. But Democrats have made a series of inroads there.

Mini Timmaraju, who leads the organization Reproductive Freedom for All, said voters will keep paying attention to the issue of abortion rights because of how high-stakes it has become for women’s health.

“We’ve had multiple, high-profile abortion access and Dobbs-related crisis stories,” Timmaraju said. “Unfortunately, the story’s not going away and therefore the saliency of the issue isn’t going away.”

Biden and Harris will hold a rally on the issue on Tuesday

On Monday, President Biden will highlight the anniversary of Roe at the White House by talking about standards and coverage for contraceptives, and the rights that patients have to get emergency reproductive medical care.

Then on Tuesday, Harris and Biden will appear together at a campaign rally in Northern Virginia, along with their spouses, first lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff.

The event is counterprogramming for Republican primary in New Hampshire. The Biden campaign is seeking to draw attention to what Trump and other Republicans have said about abortion, which is one of the most difficult issues they will face with voters.

Democrats in Virginia campaigned on the issue of reproductive rights last year, during state-level elections, and won back control of the state legislature.

It’s a rare for Biden to headline an event on reproductive care. While the president has a long voting record of supporting Roe, he has expressed that he personally is opposed to abortion.

“I happen to be a practicing Catholic. I’m not big on abortion. But guess what? Roe v. Wade got it right,” Biden said at a fundraiser last June.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, one of the co-chairs of Biden’s reelection campaign, said in an interview that aired Sunday that it would help if Biden talked more about abortion rights.

“I think people want to know that this is a president that is fighting. And I think he has said that. To use maybe more, you know, blunt language, maybe that would be helpful,” Whitmer said.

Democrats want to reach young voters and women on this issue

Biden’s campaign is featuring the issue in advertising this week with a spot that tells the story of an OB-GYN who had to leave Texas with her family to seek an abortion for a planned pregnancy that put her life at risk. In the ad, Dr. Austin Dennard explicitly blames Trump for his role in overturning abortion rights.

The campaign says the ad will run on channels like HGTV, Bravo, Food Network and Hallmark in an effort to reach suburban women and younger voters, who are critical voting blocs for Democrats.

“This ad serves as a sobering reminder to women across the country of the devastating legacy of Donald Trump’s presidency – and a warning of his plans, if elected, to take this anti-abortion crusade even further,” Biden’s campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez said in a statement.

Harris is drawing on her experience as a prosecutor

During her tour, the White House says Harris will be bringing up her own experience as a prosecutor who worked on crimes involving women and children. It’s something she drew on when she spoke to an annual meeting of mayors last week — and she didn’t mince words.

“There are women in America having miscarriages in toilets. There are women who have been denied emergency care because the healthcare providers at the emergency room are afraid that they may go to jail for assisting these women in giving them healthcare that they want to give,” Harris told the mayors.

Harris speaks about the issue with authority because of her experience, said Christina Reynolds, spokesperson for Emily’s List, an organization that backs candidates who support abortion rights.

“We know this has been an important issue for her all along the way,” Reynolds said. “The work she did at a local level, the work she did at a state level, I think informs who she is. All of that informs what she brings to this conversation,” Reynolds said.