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Vice President Kamala Harris, in Chicago visit, calls Supreme Court abortion ruling ‘a health care crisis’

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 6/24/2022 Jake Sheridan, Chicago Tribune
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris addresses the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials annual conference in Chicago on June 24, 2022. © Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/TNS U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris addresses the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials annual conference in Chicago on June 24, 2022.

Vice President Kamala Harris had planned to discuss the Biden administration’s plan to improve maternal health care during her visit Friday to C.W. Avery Family YMCA in Plainfield.

But Harris revised her remarks after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade and allows states to enact abortion bans — a move she called a health care crisis.

“For nearly 50 years, we have talked about what Roe v. Wade protects. Today, as of right now, as of this minute, we can only talk about what Roe v. Wade protected. Past tense,” she said.

“This is a health care crisis, because understand millions of women in America will go to bed tonight without access to the health care and reproductive care that they had this morning, without access to the health care, reproductive health care that their mothers and grandmothers had for 50 years.”

Harris, who learned of the decision while traveling on Air Force Two to Aurora Municipal Airport, said it was the “first time in the history of our nation that a constitutional right has been taken from the people of America. ... It is the right to privacy. Think about it as the right for each person to make intimate decisions about heart and home, decisions about the right to start a family, including contraception and the morning-after pill. Decisions about whether to have a child ... decisions to marry the person you love.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris addresses the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials annual conference in Chicago on June 24, 2022. © Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/TNS U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris addresses the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials annual conference in Chicago on June 24, 2022.

She warned of a slippery legal slope that “calls into question other rights that we thought were settled, such as the right to use birth control, the right to same-sex marriage, the right to interracial marriage.”

But she cited the ballot box as a place citizens can effect change.


Video: Rep. Ryan: Overturning Roe v. Wade is ‘largest governmental overreach’ in U.S. history (NBC News)

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“The great aspiration of our nation has been to expand freedom. But the expansion of freedom clearly is not inevitable. It is not something that just happens, not unless we defend our most fundamental principals, not unless we elect leaders who stand up for those principals,” she said. “You have the power to elect leaders who will defend and protect your rights ... so this is not over.”

Harris began reading the decision during her flight to Illinois and discussed it with the state’s senior U.S. senator, Dick Durbin, who was with her, a White House official said.

Durbin chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and announced in a statement Friday that the panel will conduct a hearing July 12 “that will examine a post-Roe America.”

“Today’s decision eliminates a federally protected constitutional right that has been the law for nearly half a century. As a result, millions of Americans are waking up in a country where they have fewer rights than their parents and grandparents,” Durbin’s statement said.

Around two dozen protesters waved Donald Trump flags outside the entrance to the YMCA’s parking lot as the vice president’s motorcade arrived. Elsewhere in the Chicago area, anti-abortion and religious groups praised the Supreme Court’s action while abortion rights activists protested.

Just Thursday, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and other state attorneys general met with Harris at the White House for what was billed as a roundtable discussion on reproductive rights.

After the Dobbs decision was announced Friday, Raoul issued a statement saying, “As I assured Vice President Kamala Harris yesterday at a White House roundtable on reproductive health, Illinois has been and will continue to be a proud reproductive health care oasis where women have the right to make their own highly-personal reproductive health decisions with their families and medical professionals.”

Raoul reiterated that abortion remains legal Illinois, “regardless of today’s decision.”

In anticipation of “an influx of women from neighboring states” coming to Illinois for abortion, Raoul said his office is working with Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the legislature “to address concerns triggered by the court’s decision. Specifically, we must expand safeguards under state law to ensure that women and providers are protected from those who would use this decision to obstruct access to abortion care.”

©2022 Chicago Tribune. Visit chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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