Vice President Kamala Harris said it is not up to the government to tell a woman what to do with their body, and affirmed the Biden Administration’s continued stance on defending reproductive freedom.
“The government should not be telling her or any individual what to do with their body,” Harris said Thursday during a reproductive rights event sponsored by her office and held at Grand View University in Des Moines.
“Let them make that decision if they choose with their priest, with their pastor, with their rabbi, with their family,” she continued.
Since Roe v. Wade was overturned last year by the US Supreme Court, reproductive rights supporters on the local and national levels have dedicated themselves to ensuring people continue to have access to health care and information about it.
However, in many states, restrictive abortion bans have made it all but impossible for women to seek reproductive healthcare without traveling out of state. In many places, women and medical practitioners could even face criminal charges for either seeking out or performing the medical procedure.
“What we have seen is, sadly, what we predicted would happen,” Harris said.
In Iowa, Harris met with Iowa community leaders and reproductive rights advocates to discuss building coalitions to protect a person’s right to choose. Harris has held about 40 of these meetings across the country.
“A post-Roe world without fundamental freedoms and protections is not a hypothetical in Iowa today, rather [it’s] a clear and present danger threatening the future of our state and everyone who calls Iowa home,” said Iowa Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls (D-Coralville) during the meeting.
Abortion is still legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy in Iowa. The only restriction is a 24-hour waiting period between a first appointment and the abortion.
Iowa Republicans have been enthusiastic about passing additional restrictions, but Gov. Kim Reynolds wants to wait for the Iowa Supreme Court to rule on her six-week abortion ban which has been on hold since 2018.
Previously, the Iowa Supreme Court blocked the six-week ban because late Justice Mark Cady ruled the Iowa Constitution protected the right to abortion. The court reversed that ruling a week before the US Supreme Court overturned Roe.
However, 20 House members did introduce a bill this session to define life at conception and outright ban abortion. House Republicans also introduced a bill to outlaw abortion medication in Iowa. Neither bill passed, but they’re a preview of what some Republicans are thinking.
Rep. Lindsay James (D-Dubuque) was also at Thursday’s meeting and said Iowa House Democrats are planning to roll out legislation on Monday to protect reproductive rights in Iowa. James said the plans include bills to:
- Make birth control available through a pharmacist without a prescription.
- Add protections for reproductive rights to the Iowa Constitution (this would be a years-long process that would include a vote by Iowans).
- Extend Medicaid’s postpartum coverage to 12 months.
- And lastly, “Restore family-planning programs under Medicaid [that] the GOP cut several years ago that has resulted in a rise in abortion and STI rates here in Iowa because of a lack of access to reproductive health care,” James said.
During her remarks, Harris also took aim at Iowa Attorney General Breanna Bird for using her position to limit reproductive freedoms.
“What we know in Iowa is there is an attorney general who has joined attorney generals from around the country who are asking the court to overturn an FDA-approved medication,” Harris said. “There are attorney generals from around the country, including here, who are attempting to tell pharmacies ‘do not dispense abortion medications in the state.’”
“At the core of these issues is a foundational issue for our country and it is the principle that we are founded on which says that we each are entitled to freedom and liberty in its most basic manifestation,” Harris added.
Harris also said red states attacking reproductive rights won’t stop there. She noted many of those same states are introducing and/or passing laws to limit voting rights and the rights of LGBTQ people.
“So let us continue in this fight for these essential principles and also build a coalition around all of these people who understand what is at stake,” Harris said. “As we build the coalition, let us remind people they are not alone and it will not stand.”
By Ty Rushing and Nikoel Hytrek
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