WASHINGTON (AP) — Before Democrat Tina Smith was running for the Senate, she was volunteering at a Planned Parenthood clinic in her home state of Minnesota, where protesters would confront women as they entered the clinic.
“It felt like an empty day,” she said.
The White House is trying to replace that void with anger and address it this weekend by signaling its determination to restore abortion rights Little chance of progress in Washington.
“If a woman cannot make decisions about her own body, are we really free? If a doctor cannot care for her patients, are we really free? If families cannot make intimate decisions about the course of their lives, are we still free?” Can it be truly free?” Harris said in excerpts of her speech released ahead of her appearance.
Harris’ decision to speak in Tallahassee, the state capital, reflects how the battle lines have changed since last summer.Now that there is no longer a state right to abortion, the debate on the issue will take place in individual state capitols Not in the halls of Congress or in front of the Supreme Court. White House officials summoned top lawmakers from eight states last week Discuss pending legislation.
Moreover, after a better-than-expected performance in November’s elections, Democrats see abortion as a key issue for their party in 2024At that time, the control of the White House and both houses of Congress will be contested at the same time. DeSantis may seek Republican presidential nominationthe first step in challenging President Biden, who has been preparing for re-election.
Harris told abortion rights advocates on a conference call Sunday that they should keep their energy up as they oppose restrictions in Republican-led states and work on behalf of candidates of local races who support abortion.
“We’re fighting for something. History will prove us right about it,” Harris said. “So let’s not be intimidated, let’s not be overwhelmed. Now is not the time to raise your hands. Now is the time to roll up your sleeves.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Florida is important because it has more lenient abortion rules than its neighbors, making it a relatively safe haven for women in the area trying to terminate their pregnancies. But Republican-controlled state governments could consider more restrictions.
DeSantis’ office did not respond to a request for comment.
biden, in a statement on Sundaysaid: “Women should be able to make these very personal decisions free from political interference. Yet Republicans in Congress and across the country continue to push for a national abortion ban, criminalize doctors and nurses, and make contraception Medicines are harder to come by. It’s dangerous, extreme, unrealistic.”
Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who has worked with Biden, said the White House’s abortion strategy has three goals.
“You can create an atmosphere that puts pressure on these states to make it harder to pass tough restrictions,” she said. Also, Lake said, “you can set the contrast” for 2024, “and you can use that as the main motivation for people to vote.”
Democrats concluded that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade reshaped the political landscape of last year’s election, reviving the party’s chances at a time when analysts were predicting a total Republican defeat.
Democrats still lost control of the House of Representatives and expanded their Senate majority by just one vote, meaning legislation establishing abortion rights nationwide remains out of reach.
There are concerns that Biden and his administration have exhausted options for executive action.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced this month, abortion pill Will be more widely available in pharmacies and by mail. The pills are also available by virtual appointment instead of going to a doctor’s office.
A battle is underway in federal court in Texas, where abortion opponents have filed a lawsuit seeking to revoke decades-old approval for the drugs.
“The government is really looking at existing federal law and trying to take advantage of it,” said Lawrence Gostin, who runs the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health at Georgetown Law School.
Not all government ideas are panned out. Biden announced last year that states could apply to waive Medicaid funds to pay for women to have abortions. No waiver was sought.
Across the states, the fight to protect abortion rights is playing out in the courts, with 14 states filing active lawsuits over abortion restrictions, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The nonprofit health organization found that advocates typically take one of three approaches to legally challenging abortion laws, claiming they violate states’ constitutional protections, infringe upon some state-guaranteed health care choices, or hinder religious freedom.
It’s unclear which legal arguments might be most successful as state supreme courts ultimately decide on access to abortion. Meanwhile, abortion opponents are finding ways to use the courts to further restrict abortion.
Renee Bracey Sherman, founder and executive director of We Testify, a group that advocates for women who have had abortions, said she was disappointed that Biden had not done more.
“The fact that he is missing during this public health emergency is truly embarrassing,” she said.
Sen. Smith of Minnesota joined Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts last year in calling for Biden to formally Declare a public health emergency.
Biden never did, but Smith said she was pleased with the steps he was taking.
“It’s hard for me to point to something they might not be doing in a public health emergency,” she said.
Associated Press writers Steve Kanowski and Amanda Seitz in St. Paul, Minnesota, contributed to this report.