DES MOINES — Vice President Kamala Harris said Thursday that a lawsuit seeking to overturn federal approval of a widely used abortion pill amounts to an attack on “our public health system as a whole.”
During her first trip to Iowa as Vice President, Ms. Harris portrayed Republican attempts to impose a statewide ban on abortion as immoral and extreme.
“If politicians start using the court to reverse doctors’ decisions, imagine where that can lead,” Ms Harris said, as a Texas judge debated whether to grant an injunction that would take the pill mifepristone off the market.
Ms. Harris has taken a leading role on abortion as President Biden prepares to announce an expected candidacy for re-election. Without the votes in Congress to enact abortion protections in law, the White House is hoping Ms. Harris can help sustain the kind of anger that motivated Democratic voters during the midterm elections.
During Thursday’s appearance at Grand View University, Ms. Harris presented the abortion issue as part of a broader fight for healthcare and privacy, a strategy aimed at mobilizing the broadest coalition of voters.
Who is running for President in 2024?
Map 1 of 7
The race begins. Four years after a historically large number of candidates ran for president, the field for the 2024 campaign is starting small and likely to be led by the same two men who ran last time: President Biden and Donald Trump. Here’s who’s been in the race so far, and who else might run:
donald trump The former president is running to regain the office he lost in 2020. Though he’s lost some clout in the Republican Party — and faces multiple legal investigations — he retains a large and dedicated base of supporters, and he could be backed in the primary by several challengers, splitting a limited anti-Trump vote .
President Biden. Although Biden has not officially declared his candidacy for a second term and there has been much wrangling among Democrats over whether he should seek re-election given his age, he is widely expected to run. If he does, Biden’s strategy is to frame the race as a competition between a veteran leader and a conspiracy-oriented opposition.
Marianne Williams. The self-help author and former spiritual advisor to Oprah Winfrey is the first Democrat to officially enter the race. At the start of her second presidential campaign, Williamson called Biden a “weak election” and said the party should not fear primaries. Few in Democratic politics take their entry into the race seriously.
“This isn’t just about reproductive health,” Ms. Harris said, adding that repealing FDA approval for abortion drugs could set a dangerous precedent and potentially affect the availability of other drugs.
The last-minute trip to Iowa, which the vice president’s team had been planning just over the past few days, is part of a push by Ms. Harris to go more inland to overcome impressions from allies and critics alike that she is has not forged a definitive role in the administration.
Top Republicans have flocked to Iowa in recent weeks in anticipation of the 2024 Iowa primary, including former President Donald J. Trump; former Vice President Mike Pence; Nikki Haley, former United Nations Ambassador; Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.
Democrats revised their main calendar, replacing Iowa with South Carolina as the party’s first nominating contest. But the Republican rush to Iowa provided Ms. Harris with an opportunity to call attention to restrictions that could be imposed by Republican-led lawmakers.
“We need to show the difference that while Republicans are taking away their health rights, we in the Democratic Party say that’s unacceptable,” said Elizabeth Naftali, vice finance chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Ms. Naftali said Democrats cannot allow a “Republican steamroller” just because the primary calendar has changed.
Most abortions are now banned in more than a dozen states after the Supreme Court overthrew Roe v. Wade last year. Though Iowa hasn’t outlawed abortion, it’s one of many states the government fears may soon enact stricter abortion restrictions.
Last year the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that there is no constitutional right to abortion. A ban on the procedure at six weeks’ gestation has been blocked by a judge since 2019, but Republican Gov. Kimberly Reynolds has asked the Supreme Court to enforce it. The state currently bans abortions after 20 weeks.
According to a Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll last fall, most Iowans — 61 percent — believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. 33 percent say it should be illegal in most or all cases, and 6 percent aren’t sure.
“We’ve just seen a lot of panic and fear among concerned patients,” said Mazie Stilwell, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Advocates in Iowa.
White House officials acknowledged there was only so much they could do to protect access to abortions without Congress, but many pro-choice workers are calling for policies that would protect both medical officials who perform abortions and those who want them would protect.
“What I know is frustrating for me and a lot of local organizers that we keep having meetings and nothing happens,” said Renee Bracey Sherman, founder and executive director of reproductive rights advocacy We Testify.
There were no major political announcements on Thursday. But Ms Harris described those pushing for abortion restrictions as “extremist so-called leaders who profess and profess to hail themselves as beacons of freedom and opportunity”.
Stefanie Brown James, a co-founder of the Collective PAC, an organization dedicated to electing African-American public officials, said such a blunt message is essential for both Ms. Harris and Mr. Biden in the months to come.
“In the event that Kamala Harris continues as his deputy, it is just as important for her to have conversations now as it is for him,” Ms James said. “This problem is not going away anytime soon.”