In Illinois, Vice President Kamala Harris speaks of ‘past tense’ era of abortion rights
Said Harris at a YMCA in Plainfield: “Today, as of right now, as of this minute, we can only talk about what Roe v. Wade protected. Past tense.”
Vice President Kamala Harris was on Air Force Two en route to Illinois on Friday when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending federal protections for abortion rights. Harris started reading the decision as the plane headed toward the Aurora Municipal Airport.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the Senate Judiciary Committee chair, was on the flight, and the two discussed the ruling ending 50 years of reproductive freedoms women in the United States had enjoyed.
Harris was in Illinois to highlight maternal health care issues at the C.W. Avery Family YMCA in Plainfield, then motorcade to downtown Chicago to address the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials at the Swissotel.
The decision giving states permission to ban abortions — while expected, by now, given the leaked draft — was a shock to the political system. Harris tossed away the speech she had planned to give.
Her event at the YMCA was delayed. A tour of the YMCA and a meeting with health care providers was canceled. In a classroom at the YMCA, Harris, Durbin, Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., and others watched President Joe Biden’s speech reacting to the reversal of Roe.
This fall, Biden said, “Roe is on the ballot.”
While so much attention is given to the 6-3 conservative dominance of the Supreme Court, the point is often lost that when it comes to abortion, a woman’s right to choose could become the law of the land — if Congress acted.
We’ve known that for decades. But for all these years, abortion rights advocates have never been able to muster enough support in Congress.
Underwood was on hand because she worked with Harris on maternal health issues, with a focus on Black maternal health disparities.
The event was in Underwood’s 14th Congressional District and the Harris visit was also intended to boost Underwood. While Underwood has no rivals in the Democratic primary, the 14th has enough Republicans to make it competitive in the fall.
Durbin and Underwood spoke before Harris. “We are dedicated,” said Underwood, “to protecting women’s fundamental freedoms.”
The speech Harris ended up giving was only seven minutes long. Democrats for the moment know the problem — but not the political cure.
“We traveled here from D.C. today to talk with you about maternal health, which should be one of our highest priorities as a nation,” Harris said.
The event was supposed to showcase Biden administration plans to improve health care for pregnant women. Maternal health — as well as abortion access — is really the same thing, isn’t it, when it comes to the whole picture of women’s health.
“For nearly 50 years, we have talked about what Roe v. Wade protects. Today, as of right now, as of this minute, we can only talk about what Roe v. Wade protected. Past tense,” Harris said.
“Think about it as the right for each person to make intimate decisions about heart and home; decisions about the right to start a family, including contraception, such as IUDs and the morning-after pill; decisions about whether to have a child, including, as Senator Durbin mentioned, through in-vitro fertilization,” Harris said.
The fear now is, as Biden and Harris and so many others noted on Friday, that things we have considered as settled — gay marriage, interracial marriage and the freedom to use contraception — may now face legal jeopardy.
Friday was a very tough day for Democrats — or, rather, for people, no matter their party, who support abortion rights.
Said Harris: “You have the power to elect leaders who will defend and protect your rights. And as the president said earlier today, with your vote, you can act, and you have the final word.”
Former President Donald Trump — with three of his picks on the Supreme Court — will be in Quincy on Saturday night for a rally to boost freshman Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill., his ardent MAGA follower.
Miller is in a GOP primary with Rep. Rodney Davis. In October 2018, Davis was on stage getting a bump from Trump at a rally in Murphysboro. But that was then.
Underwood — who may face a MAGA Republican in November — will be in Quincy on Saturday, leading Democrats in advance of the Trump/Miller rally — to shine a light on “democracy” and “fundamental rights.”
Underwood usually doesn’t do this kind of thing. With Roe past tense, now she is.