Kamala Harris In Iowa: Go On Offense On Women’s Health Rights

By Nikoel Hytrek

July 4, 2019

Senator Kamala Harris has told everyone during this 2020 campaign that she’s a fighter.

She’s touted her time as the Attorney General of California, prosecuting banks and holding corporations accountable. She’s told the story about being raised by parents who were civil rights activists. 

And at a NARAL-sponsored town hall in Des Moines, Harris emphasized her ability and willingness to fight for women’s reproductive health care in a way that others may not.

“Right now, women’s access to reproductive health is under attack in America, and we have got to stand firm,” Harris said. 

Twice on Wednesday, Harris emphasized the need to fight for reproductive rights, but she stressed that the battle needs to happen on both the offensive and defensive. 

“Part of the solution that I’m offering is that, when elected, we put in place a requirement that for states that have a history of passing restrictions on access to reproductive health care, that the United States DOJ will review that law and determine whether or not it’s Constitutional,” Harris said after the West Des Moines Democrats July 4th picnic. “And until it clears constitutional muster, that law cannot go into effect.”

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Harris announced this approach, modeled after the Voting Rights Act, in late May this year. She said she supports this solution because it’s one of the best ways to attack the issue directly.

“The best solution is that these states stop restricting access to reproductive health care, and then, what we need to do in light of the fact that that has not stopped, is that we need to deal with it on the offensive, which is part of what I’m offering,” Harris said.

The plan for defense, she said, is supporting the women who are already fighting for reproductive rights. 

“That means making sure that we’re reaching out to all of the community-based folks who are doing the work in these states, in particular states like Alabama and Georgia and Missouri, so that we can make sure that these women are getting the support they need,” she said. 

Harris isn’t new to this fight for women’s health care rights, either. Her mother, who was a civil rights activist, was also a breast cancer research. Harris said her mother told her and her sister stories about how women were treated.

“She, from my earliest memories, came home enraged about the lack of dignity that women were given in the health care delivery system, in the context of science research, in the context of taking women seriously and at their word when they expressed what their needs are,” Harris said.

That background has inspired Harris all her life.

She said she became a lawyer because of the work done by civil rights lawyers like Thurgood Marshall and Charles Hamilton Houston. 

As the California Attorney General, Harris said she was careful to ensure that laws wouldn’t infringe on women’s rights to choose. She also petitioned the Supreme Court in 2016 to reverse a court decision in Texas that put restrictions on abortion clinics. She also fought for women’s access to contraception. 

“It’s the very nature of this fight, for justice and equality, is that whatever gains we make, they will not be permanent,” she said. “And the point in knowing that it’s the nature of it, is to not despair, to not be overwhelmed, let’s not throw up our hands when it’s time to roll up our sleeves.”

Harris also emphasized that the women who are most impacted by lack of access to reproductive health care are poor women and women of color, those who can’t travel to a place where access is easier. In Iowa, more women face those transportation issues after several Planned Parenthood clinics were forced to close.

And Harris explained what kind of effect that will have.

“It is not an extreme point, it is not an alarmist point to make that women will die because of these policies, and that’s just unacceptable.”


by Nikoel Hytrek
Photo by Julie Fleming
Posted 7/4/19

  • Nikoel Hytrek

    Nikoel Hytrek is Iowa Starting Line’s longest-serving reporter. She covers LGBTQ issues, abortion rights and all topics of interest to Iowans. Her biggest goal is to help connect the dots between policy and people’s real lives. If you have story ideas or tips, send them over to [email protected].



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