In Illinois, Vice President Kamala Harris talks about the “past tense” era of abortion rights

Vice President Kamala Harris was on Air Force Two en route to Illinois on Friday when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending federal abortion rights protections. Harris began reading the decision as the plane headed for Aurora Municipal Airport.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was on the flight, and the two discussed the decision ending 50 years of reproductive freedoms enjoyed by women in the United States.

Harris was in Illinois to highlight maternal health issues at the CW Avery Family YMCA in Plainfield, then in motorcade to downtown Chicago to address the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed People at the Swissotel.

The decision to allow states to ban abortions — as expected, given the leaked plan — came as a shock to the political system. Harris threw away the speech she had planned to give.

Her event at the YMCA was delayed. A YMCA tour and a meeting with health care providers have been cancelled. In a YMCA classroom, Harris, Durbin, Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., and others watched President Joe Biden’s speech react to Roe’s reversal.

This fall, Biden said, “Roe is on the ballot.”

While so much attention is paid to the conservative 6-3 dominance of the Supreme Court, it is often overlooked that when it comes to abortion, a woman’s right to choose could become the law of the land – if the Congress was acting.

We have known this for decades. But in all those years, abortion rights advocates have never been able to muster enough support in Congress.

Underwood was on hand because she worked with Harris on maternal health issues, with a focus on maternal health disparities among black people.

The event took place in Underwood’s 14th congressional district and Harris’ visit was also meant to boost Underwood. While Underwood has no rivals in the Democratic primary, the 14th has enough Republicans to make it competitive come fall.

Durbin and Underwood spoke before Harris. “We are committed,” Underwood said, “to protecting the fundamental freedoms of women.”

The speech Harris ended up giving was only seven minutes long. Democrats currently know the problem, but not the political remedy.

“We came here from DC today to speak with you about maternal health, which should be one of our highest priorities as a nation,” Harris said.

The event was supposed to showcase the Biden administration‘s plans to improve health care for pregnant women. Maternal health—as well as access to abortion—is really the same thing, isn’t it, when it comes to the overall picture of women’s health.

“For nearly 50 years we have talked about what Roe v. Wade is protecting. Today, from now, from this minute, we can only talk about what Roe v. Wade has been protecting. Past “Harris said.

“Think of it as the right of each person to make intimate decisions about their heart and home; decisions regarding the right to found a family, including contraception, such as IUDs and the morning after pill; decisions about whether to have a child, including, as Senator Durbin mentioned, through in vitro fertilization,” Harris said.

The fear now is, as Biden and Harris and so many others noted on Friday, that things we once considered settled — same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, and the freedom to use contraception — are now under threat from the law.

Friday was a very tough day for Democrats — or rather, for people, regardless of party, who support abortion rights.

Says Harris: “You have the power to elect leaders who will defend and protect your rights. And as the president said earlier today, with your vote you can act and you have the final say.”

Former President Donald Trump — along with three of his Supreme Court picks — will be in Quincy on Saturday night for a rally to boost freshman Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill., his ardent MAGA follower.

Miller is in a GOP primary with Rep. Rodney Davis. In October 2018, Davis was on stage receiving a bump from Trump at a rally in Murphysboro. But that was then.

Underwood – who could face a Republican MAGA in November – will be in Quincy on Saturday, leading the Democrats ahead of the Trump/Miller rally – to shine a light on “democracy” and “fundamental rights.”

Underwood doesn’t usually do that stuff. With Roe in the past tense, now she is.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the National Association of Elected and Latino Elected Officials Annual Conference at Swissotel Chicago Friday afternoon.

About Therese Williams

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