Vice President Kamala Harris returns to Chicago Friday with spotlight on abortion rights

The vice president’s visit marks her fourth time in Illinois since taking office.

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Vice President Kamala Harris at the celebration of the passage of The Inflation Reduction Act.

Vice President Kamala Harris will take part in a reproductive health rights discussion with advocates, Illinois students and health providers.

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WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris returns to Chicago Friday in a visit that will highlight reproductive rights in a state where abortion rights are safeguarded and Democrats are making that a centerpiece of campaigns.

The Harris trip to Illinois — her fourth since becoming vice president — comes at a time when Illinois, where Democrats control state government, is a safe haven for abortion rights and as a growing number of states have been imposing bans since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.

A White House official told the Sun-Times Harris will hold a reproductive health rights roundtable discussion with Illinois students, advocates and providers.

After the roundtable, the vice president will headline a political rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago, in the UIC Forum, 1213 S. Halsted St., with Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton and other Democratic candidates and elected officials. Doors open at 2 p.m.

A centerpiece of Pritzker’s reelection campaign against GOP nominee Darren Bailey is his strong support for abortion rights.

The issue is also in play in other races. Abortion rights may also emerge as a factor in two state Supreme Court contests where the November election could tip control of the court, which currently has four Democrats and three Republican justices.

The Harris visit comes after U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced a bill Tuesday to ban nationwide all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy while leaving the door open for states to approve even tighter restrictions.

Graham’s measure represents a flip-flop. Until Tuesday, his position has been to let states decide rules dealing with abortion. The measure has no chance of passing the Senate as long as the Democrats control the chamber. Graham’s bill — and one with more abortion restrictions by U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, — are being amplified by Democrats to make the argument to support their candidates up and down the ballot in November.

On Tuesday, West Virginia became the latest state to approve a near ban on abortion — underscoring the role Illinois has in being a state where abortion is legal. On Thursday, a near abortion ban in Indiana takes effect.

Harris was last in Illinois on July 5.

She came to Chicago for the annual meeting of the National Education Association at McCormick Place and added a stop in Highland Park the day after a shooter killed seven people and wounded at least 48 at the city’s Fourth of July parade.

Harris, in that unscheduled stop, spoke to law enforcement officials, first responders and government officials, calling again for a ban on assault-style weapons.

In June, Harris was flying to Illinois on Air Force Two for a health care event in Plainfield when she learned about Supreme Court overturning Roe, ending federal protections for abortion rights. Harris started reading the decision as the plane headed toward the Aurora Municipal Airport.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, was on the flight, and the two discussed the ruling ending 50 years of reproductive freedoms women in the United States had enjoyed.

Harris flew to Illinois to highlight maternal health care issues at the C.W. Avery Family YMCA in Plainfield. After that, she headed to downtown Chicago to address the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Harris was in Chicago in March 2021 to promote COVID-19 vaccinations. She also stopped outside Brown Sugar Bakery, 328 E. 75th St., and huddled with local Democratic elected officials at Midway Airport.

Since May, Harris has held 20 sessions with a variety of people about the growing fight to protect reproductive rights.

Harris has been focusing on state lawmakers as the fight to preserve abortion rights increasingly is in the states. She has met with more than 150 state legislators from 18 states to discuss protecting reproductive rights.

Among those attending White House meetings with Harris to discuss abortion rights: in August, state Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, and in June, Attorney General Kwame Raoul.

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