WASHINGTON – While some states are moving to limit access to abortion or ban the procedure altogether, Vice President Kamala Harris will remember 50th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade on Sunday by traveling to Florida and arguing for a federal law to protect reproductive rights.
On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court issued its landmark Roe v. Wade judgment which established a constitutional right to abortion. Five decades later, the court’s conservative majority delivered a stunning setback to the abortion rights movement when it overturned the decision last Juneand states that there is no right to abortion in the constitution.
That decision moved one of the nation’s most divisive debates back to the states. At least 13 have since banned abortion entirely, while others have restricted access to the procedure.
Harris will urge Congress to pass legislation that would enshrine the right to abortion in federal law. She is also expected to emphasize the steps the administration has taken to protect reproductive rights in light of last summer’s ruling and to undermine Republican efforts to further restrict access to abortion.
Harris will deliver his remarks in Tallahassee, the capital of Florida. The location is no accident: the state legislature passed a law banning abortion after 15 weeks. The state Supreme Court is reviewing a legal challenge to the law. Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, a Republican, said she would support a 12-week abortion ban, while abortion activists are pushing for other restrictions.
President Joe Biden, who has taken steps to protect abortion rights after last summer’s decision, issued a proclamation Friday commemorating Roe v. Wade. “The court got Roe right 50 years ago,” Biden said, calling the ruling “a balanced decision with broad national consensus.”
A federal law has almost no chance of passing in Congress, where Republicans control the House and not all Democrats have unrestricted access to abortion.
Harris has been is leading the administration’s charge against new abortion restrictions. The nation’s first female vice president, who previously served as California’s attorney general, is a supporter of reproductive rights and has close ties to liberal women’s groups.
In recent months, she has hosted leaders from 38 states for events that focused on attacks on reproductive freedom and convened nearly 200 state lawmakers from 18 states to discuss the fight at the state level, her office said.
In her speech Sunday, “the vice president will make it very clear: The fight to secure women’s basic right to reproductive health care is far from over,” her spokeswoman, Kirsten Allen, said in a statement. “She will outline the consequences of extremist attacks on reproductive freedom in states across our country and emphasize the need for Congress to codify Roe.”
Harris’ remarks will serve as a reminder that access to abortion remains a priority for the administration beyond the last November’s midterm elections, as the issue drove voters to the polls and allowed Democrats to perform much better than expected.
What they say
“I urge Americans to honor generations of advocates who have fought for reproductive freedom, to recognize the countless women whose lives and futures have been saved and shaped by the Roe v. Wade decision, and to march forward with purpose, as we work together to restore the right to choose.” – President Biden, in a proclamation commemorating the anniversary of Roe v. Wade
“On the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, abortion, contraception and other forms of reproductive health care are under attack in our nation like never before because the Supreme Court undermined nearly half a century of precedent protecting women’s access to this critical care. As as a result, our daughters have fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers, and women who seek care are put in dangerous situations with heartbreaking results.” – Xavier Bacerra, Health and Human Services Secretary
“Since the day the Supreme Court overturned Roe, the number one question we’ve heard from our supporters has been: What can I do? For months the answer was, get out and vote. And we did in historic numbers. Now we have we have a foothold to fight back and a larger army of allies to work with us. Today, the next phase of our work begins in earnest. Our goal is simple: freedom for all—nothing less.” – Mini Timmaraju, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America
“What is the most ambitious we can be?” — Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, on her organization’s focus on state legislation.
“With the overturning of Roe, the need to stand up for life in our society has reached a new level of importance. As states address the issue of whether life will be protected, many good people in our country have seen the issue of abortion migrating from Washington to their own backyards. The need to end abortion in our society has never been greater.” – Brian Westbrook, CEO of Coalition Life
Why it matters
With the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the Biden administration has few options to secure access to abortion.
Legislation to enshrine Roe v. Wade’s protections in federal law has stalled in Congress. The Democratic-controlled Senate does not have the votes to pass the measure. Even if it did, the bill would almost certainly die in the Republican-controlled House.
Biden has taken some executive actions to protect reproductive rights, including protecting access to birth control and abortion services, ensuring patient privacy over health data, and making legal representation available to women who travel out of state to obtain an abortion. Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration announced that pills to end an early pregnancy would be available at many more pharmacies, including large chains and mail-order companies.
Lacking other options, the administration’s most effective recourse may be to keep the issue in the minds of voters as states move to ban the procedure or impose additional restrictions.
Other administration officials have traveled the country to highlight the importance of abortion access. On Thursday, Becerra visited a Planned Parenthood clinic in Minnesota, where lawmakers are working to expand reproductive health care, and on Friday met with advocates and providers in Wisconsin, which no longer allows abortions.
Do you want to know more? Here’s what you missed
‘A complicated, highly nuanced and divisive subject’: States with laws hostile to women’s rights after Roe overturned see no bar to sporting events
What did Roe v. Wade actually say? The landmark decision on abortion rights, explained
What does it mean to topple Roe?: A breakdown of the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling
Michael Collins covers the White House. Follow him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 50th anniversary of Roe marked by Kamala Harris with speech in Florida