By Nandita Bose and Trevor Hunnicutt
WASHINGTON/WAUKESHA, Wisconsin (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday took aim at Republican curbs on abortion rights, a galvanizing issue for Democrats that they hope will boost enthusiasm among their base, attract independent voters, and increase turnout in November.
Women in America face a new “cruel reality,” Biden said, because of new laws curbing reproductive rights, ahead of a meeting on the topic at the White House on Monday. The day marks the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which recognized a woman’s constitutional right to abortion before that was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022.
“Today in 2024 in America, women are turned away from emergency rooms,” forced to travel hundreds of miles to get healthcare or to plead in court for help, Biden said, referring to state rules blocking women from receiving abortions when their lives could be at risk or for non-viable pregnancies.
“They turned a deeply private and painful matter into a public matter,” Biden said of Republicans. “These extreme laws have no place, no place, in the United States of America.”
Harris, kicking off a national tour on abortion rights in the key battleground state of Wisconsin, blamed former U.S. President Donald Trump for helping reverse U.S. abortion rights.
“The former president hand-picked three Supreme Court Justices because he intended for them to overturn Roe. He made a decision to take your freedoms and it is a decision he does not regret,” Harris told a rally outside Milwaukee.
Trump’s picks shifted a court that had been ideologically deadlocked with four liberals and four conservatives to a solid conservative majority.
Wisconsin, which Biden won by 20,600 votes over Trump in 2020, is considered crucial to Biden’s reelection prospects. Trump is on track to be his top Republican rival again this year.
The Biden campaign is putting abortion rights front and center in 2024, and argues abortion access is a personal freedom that former Trump and Republicans are denying women. Anti-abortion advocates, with the backing of Christian evangelical groups, argue abortion ends the life of a human being and that stricter limits are needed at the state and national level.
Republicans have issued restrictive abortion laws in nearly two dozen states since the Supreme Court reversal of abortion rights.
“We are not yet done,” March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said in Washington on Friday.
On Tuesday, Biden and Harris, along with first lady Jill Biden and second gentleman Doug Emhoff, will then make their first joint campaign appearance of 2024 at a rally for abortion rights in Virginia, where Democrats recently won control of the state legislature.
Democrats are holding events on Monday highlighting abortion rights in states that will decide the U.S. presidential election in November, including a Phoenix, Arizona, mayor’s press conference and events with Pennsylvania’s members of Congress.
Polls show Biden tied with Trump, as Biden’s campaign battles voter concerns about his age, the economy and handling of the Israel-Hamas war. Democrats hope a threat of further curbs on abortion will bring voters to the polls in November.
“When candidates run on defending reproductive freedom, they win elections,” Biden’s campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez said in a memo on Friday.
LINKING ABORTION CURBS TO TRUMP
A new advertising campaign, targeted at suburban women and young voters in election battleground states, focuses on the personal impact of abortion bans.
The first 60-second ad, “Forced,” features Dr. Austin Dennard, an OB-GYN in Texas, who had to flee her state for an abortion.
Most opinion polls, including a Reuters/Ipsos poll in July, show a majority of U.S. voters oppose presidential candidates who favor strict abortion limits. All seven statewide ballot initiatives to enshrine reproductive rights since 2022 have succeeded, including in conservative Ohio, Kansas and Kentucky.
Abortion rights groups are collecting signatures in Arizona, Nevada and Florida to put a reproductive rights amendment on the ballot in 2024 as well.
Republican presidential candidates are divided on proposals for a federal limit on abortion. Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has urged Republicans to focus on finding consensus while Trump has changed his rhetoric on abortion as the Republican primary unfolds.
He has called for punishment for women who get abortions, saying he was “proud” of his role in overturning Roe, and has often taken credit for selecting the justices who overturned Roe, a decades-long dream of abortion opponents.
At the White House meeting, Biden will “hear directly from physicians on the front lines of the fallout” and announce new steps to improve access to contraception and medical abortion, an official said.
The Department of Health and Human Services on Monday said it was making it easier for health plans and sponsors to cover free contraception, as the law states, by including a broader range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraception drugs and devices.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Heather Timmons, Richard Chang, Jonathan Oatis and Deepa Babington)