Biden Campaign Sharpens Its Post-Roe Message: Abortion Is About Freedom newsbhunt


President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will headline events next week centered around protecting abortion rights, throwing more heft behind an issue that has galvanized voters in the 18 months since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.

On Monday, Ms. Harris will visit Wisconsin to begin a national tour focused on preserving access to reproductive health care as Republicans call for more restrictions. Then on Tuesday, she will join Mr. Biden at a rally for abortion rights in Virginia, where Democrats recently took control of the state legislature and have proposed to enshrine abortion protections in the state constitution.

Ms. Harris offered a preview of the administration’s election-year messaging to Americans when she visited “The View,” the most popular daytime talk show in the country.

“We are not asking anyone to abandon their personal beliefs,” she said during an appearance on Wednesday, adding that “the government should not be telling women what to do with their bodies.”

The idea that preserving access to abortion is tantamount to preserving personal freedoms has been embraced by Biden administration officials, lawmakers and activists who hope it will energize a flagging base and draw independent voters into the fold. They also want to contrast the administration’s policies with the political peril that the Republican Party faces by embracing hard-line measures.

“I start from the place that most Americans believe that women should have the freedom to make their own decisions about health care, including abortion, without government interference,” Senator Tina Smith, Democrat of Minnesota, who traveled to the Iowa caucuses as a surrogate for Mr. Biden, said in an interview. (About 69 percent of voters think abortion should be legal in the first three months of pregnancy, according to a Gallup poll last year.)

“There is no doubt where the president stands in terms of protecting reproductive freedom and the freedom of people to make their own decisions,” she added.

Mr. Biden — a practicing Catholic who was once a critic of abortions — has long spoken of abortion rights within the context of personal freedom. At recent fund-raising events, he has attacked Donald J. Trump, the former president who installed three conservative justices on the Supreme Court, for paving the way for restrictive bans on abortion that now exist in states like Texas, where private citizens can sue abortion providers and those who assist patients seeking an abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy.

“Trump is running for president bragging that he killed Roe v. Wade,” Mr. Biden told supporters at a fund-raising reception in Denver in November. “So, let’s be absolutely clear what Trump is bragging about. The only reason there’s a ban on abortion and the circumstances in many places is because of Donald Trump.”

Republicans have largely united around Mr. Trump, who in 2016 suggested that women seeking abortions should face some form of punishment before walking back his statement, as the Republican presidential nominee. Yet some know that the party has a messaging problem.

Sarah Chamberlain, the president of Republican Main Street Partnership, a conservative advisory group that she said works with 90 members of Congress, said that the Republican Party was “losing the women’s vote.”

“Now the members are like, ‘Listen, go get us good information on this; we want to learn about this; we want to know how this is affecting women,’” Ms. Chamberlain said. “When Dobbs came down from the Supreme Court, I don’t think they thought it was going to be the issue that it was. As a woman, I tried to tell them, ‘Listen, it’s going to be a huge issue,’ and they kind of got caught off guard.”

In Congress, some Republicans, particularly those in swing districts, are quietly stepping away from restrictive abortion legislation, including a bill called the Life at Conception Act, which amounted to a nationwide abortion ban.

Representative Nancy Mace, a Republican who represents a purple district in South Carolina, cosponsored the first version of the bill but has since distanced herself from it. She said in an interview that Republicans “don’t need to be voting on a complete ban.” Instead, she called for Republicans “to be compassionate toward women.”

Democrats and abortion rights activists believe they offer a clear contrast. But some advocates say the Biden administration could do more.

Dr. Caroline Moreau, a reproductive health expert at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that the administration still could pursue a more progressive abortion agenda. It could increase funding for Title X family planning clinics, she said, or push more states, particularly those where abortion is legal, to allow different kinds of health workers, such as midwives, to dispense abortion pills.

But Mary Ziegler, a law professor at the University of California, Davis, and expert on the history and politics of abortion, said that Congress and the courts played major roles in larger policy decisions on the issue, such as codifying Roe, easing restrictions on the distribution of abortion pills or deciding a hospital’s right to perform emergency abortions.

“There’s a problem, potentially, for Biden, in the sense that young people don’t know what practically Biden can do that he hasn’t already done,” Ms. Ziegler said. “What the administration hasn’t messaged effectively is what Trump could do. The reality is that things could get much worse, regardless of Congress.”

Legal battles are also mounting. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the abortion drug mifepristone was challenged in the courts, and in December, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear a case challenging the federal agency’s approval of the commonly used pill.

The Biden administration is also in the middle of legal battles with the states of Texas and Idaho over whether a federal law called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, known as EMTALA, requires hospital emergency rooms to provide abortions in urgent circumstances. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Idaho case.

On Friday, Julie Chávez Rodríguez, the Biden campaign manager, wrote in a memo that Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris “are the only candidates in the race for the presidency who will veto a national abortion ban” and “are fighting to restore the protections of Roe.”

Mini Timmaraju, the president of Reproductive Freedom for All — previously known as NARAL Pro-Choice America, before the group rebranded to emphasize that its mission was about preserving fundamental freedoms — praised Ms. Harris’s visit to “The View,” calling it a “master class” in talking to independent and conservative-leaning voters about the consequences of abortion restrictions. On the program, Ms. Harris, as she has done in other appearances across the country, warned that other civil protections could be stripped away along with abortion rights.

“So many of us actually grew up when Roe was intact, and we would absolutely say, ‘We must protect it; we must protect it, a woman’s right to choose,’” Ms. Harris said. “But we kind of believed it was always going to be there. And look what happened. And I say that in the context of this democracy also. Don’t take anything for granted.”

The vice president’s approach drew praise from the most unlikely of places: Fox News.

“She knows what is true, which is the G.O.P. has lost every single abortion ballot initiative post Roe — every single one,” Kayleigh McEnany, a Fox News personality who served as former President Donald J. Trump’s press secretary during the last year of his presidency, said on the network after the vice president’s appearance on “The View.” Ms. McEnany, who opposes abortion, said that she has urged Republicans to “speak from a place of compassion” on the issue.

“We as a party must do that, because what Kamala is doing, right or wrong, is very powerful among young women,” she said.

Noah Weiland contributed reporting.


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