‘Everything is at stake’ for reproductive rights in 2024, Harris says as Biden-Trump debate nears

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris says “everything is at stake” with reproductive health rights in November’s election as the Biden campaign steps up its focus on contrasting the positions taken by Democratic President Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump on the issue before their debate this week.

Harris’ comments come as the campaign announced it would hold more than 50 events in battleground states and beyond to mark Monday’s second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that overturned the federal legal right to an abortion. Biden and his allies are trying to remind voters that the landmark decision in 2022 was made by a high court that included three conservative justices nominated during Trump’s White House tenure.

“Every person of whatever gender should understand that, if such a fundamental freedom such as the right to make decisions about your own body can be taken, be aware of what other freedoms may be at stake,” Harris said in a joint MSNBC interview with Hadley Duvall, an abortion rights advocate from Kentucky who was raped by her stepfather as a child. Part of the interview aired Sunday.

The Biden campaign believes that abortion rights can be a galvanizing issue in what is expected to be a close general election.

Trump has taken credit for Dobbs with his conservative base while stopping short of supporting a national abortion ban sought by supporters on the religious right, should he return to the White House.

In April, Trump said he believed the issue should be left to the states. He later stated in an interview that he would not sign a nationwide ban on abortion if it were passed by Congress. He has declined to detail his position on women’s access to the abortion pill mifepristone.

At a campaign event Saturday, Trump said his administration did “something that was amazing” with Dobbs, while acknowledging the political peril of pressing further on the issue at the moment.

“Every voter has to go with your heart and do what’s right, but we also have to get elected,” he said.

Biden has begun private preparations at Camp David for the debate Thursday night in Atlanta. Trump is expected to hold meetings at his Florida estate this week as part of an informal prep process.

Duvall, of Owensboro, Kentucky, first told her story publicly last fall in a campaign ad during the governor’s race in her home state discussing the consequences of abortion restrictions, particularly those without exceptions for rape or incest.

Duvall also joined first lady Jill Biden at a Pittsburgh campaign rally Sunday where the two criticized Trump for supporting the Dobbs decision.

“He thinks we can be ignored,” Biden said of Trump. “He doesn’t know that when our bodies are on the line, when our daughters’ futures are at stake, we are immovable and we are unstoppable.”

Duvall’s home state of Kentucky has enacted a near-total abortion ban following the Dobbs decision. The state bans abortions except when carried out to save the mother’s life. It does not include exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

Trump in a Fox News interview earlier this month said the way some states are enshrining abortion rights and others are restricting them was “a beautiful thing to watch.”

“I would like to ask him: What is so beautiful about telling a 12-year-old girl that she must have the baby of her stepfather who raped her?” Duvall said.

Harris is scheduled to mark Monday’s anniversary of the Dobbs decision with campaign events in Arizona and Maryland. Her husband, Doug Emhoff, is headed to Michigan on Monday.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was heading to Wisconsin on behalf of the Biden campaign with Amanda Zurawski, a Texas woman who was initially denied an abortion after being told she had a condition that meant her baby would not survive. Zurawski was forced to wait until she was diagnosed with a life-threatening case of sepsis before being provided an abortion.

“If there is a woman who is in that reproductive age, then her life is at stake during this election,” Duvall said in the MSNBC interview. “And it does not matter if you have never voted Democrat in your life. It’s get off your high horse, because women, we don’t get to choose a whole lot, and you at least can choose who you can vote for.”

The Associated Press does not normally identify sexual assault victims, but Duvall, 22, chose to be identified and has spoken out publicly about her experience and its connection to the debate over abortion.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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