Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Savannah on Tuesday as part of a new effort by the Biden administration to campaign heavily on abortion rights ahead of the 2024 election.
In the first stop of her “Fight for Reproductive Freedoms” tour to take place in the South, Harris spoke solely on the topic before an invited audience of about 150 people at the Savannah Civic Center.
“There is nothing about this moment that is hypothetical: today in America, more than 1 in 3 women of reproductive age live in a state with an abortion ban,” Harris said, describing the current landscape of abortion rights in the U.S. as a “horrific reality” following the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade in 2022.
Georgia law bans most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know that they are pregnant.
“These lawmakers — either they don’t know how a woman’s body works or they just don’t care,” Harris said of Georgia’s Republican state legislators who wrote the law, which the state’s high court upheld last year as constitutional due to Roe‘s defeat in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
That U.S. Supreme Court case — which ended a woman’s constitutional guarantee to abortion access before viability — had a near-immediate effect in Savannah: shortly after Dobbs was handed down, the city’s only provider of surgical abortions closed permanently, even before Georgia’s abortion law went into effect the following month.
Harris urged Georgia voters to “understand” former President Donald Trump as “the architect of this health care crisis,” citing his appointment of three Supreme Court justices who sided with the court’s 6-3 decision in Dobbs.
“One does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to agree the government should not be telling her what to do with her body,” Harris said.
Abortion rights are expected to be a go-to issue for Biden and Harris in the 2024 election, including in Georgia, where a public opinion poll conducted by the University of Georgia in 2022 found that 61.6% of adults either “strongly oppose” (54.3%) or “somewhat oppose” (7.3%) the state’s abortion law.
However, Biden is struggling with his popularity as a candidate in what is likely to be a rematch between him and former President Donald Trump: a January public opinion poll conducted by the University of Georgia found Trump leading Biden by 8 percentage points in the state.
Harris did not take questions from reporters after her event in Savannah.
She was interrupted during her remarks by a woman who shouted “Free Palestine!”, which has become a common occurrence at recent Biden campaign events, as protesters criticize the president for his support of Israel.
As the woman was being escorted out of the venue by law enforcement without resisting, Harris said, “We know in a healthy democracy, we value the freedom of all people to be heard. But right now we are talking about a different issue, and that is the issue of what has happened to the women and people of America as a result of the Dobbs decision.”
Harris’s event marked her first visit to Savannah while in office. She previously visited the city in January 2021 as vice president-elect to campaign for Savannah native Raphael Warnock during the Democrat’s successful run for U.S. Senate.
Warnock’s defeat of Republican Kelly Loeffler — along with Democrat Jon Ossoff’s victory over Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue — helped put the chamber in Democratic control, as tie votes between its 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats were broken by Harris, who as vice president also serves as Senate president.
Savannah’s Chatham County — although not the political hotbed of Atlanta and its suburbs, which federal politicians often frequent in their campaigning — is the state’s most populated outside of metro Atlanta.
Biden in 2020 outperformed Trump in Chatham County by 18.75 percentage points, netting him 25,015 more votes in a Georgia election that was ultimately decided by just 11,779 votes out of nearly 5 million ballots cast.
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