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VP Harris calls for abortion-rights supporters to channel frustration into action

Vice President Kamala Harris said Congress needs to act to codify abortion rights, but acknowledged the political hurdles to that goal.
Cheriss May for NPR
Vice President Kamala Harris said Congress needs to act to codify abortion rights, but acknowledged the political hurdles to that goal.

Updated June 28, 2022 at 6:42 PM ET

Vice President Harris said on Tuesday that people who support abortion rights need to stand together and channel their disappointment into political action on the issue ahead of the November 2022 midterm elections.

"We have to stand together in this fight, right — those of us who understand what's at stake," Harris said in an interview with NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid.

"It is profound, in terms of where [the decision] takes us back. We have a 23-year-old daughter who is going to know fewer rights than my 80-something-year-old mother-in law," Harris said.

Khalid pressed Harris on how Democrats – particularly young Democrats – have become disillusioned because of the decision.

"I think we all felt, and rightly, a huge blow when this decision came down," Harris said. "That's real. So I don't deny anybody how they are feeling right now. I know how I'm feeling right now."

She said the Biden administration had made progress on Democratic priorities, but acknowledged the White House had more work to do. She urged supporters to stick together for the fight ahead.

"There is no daylight among us who understand the seriousness of this moment and the real consequence to millions of women, and those who love them, around the country," Harris said. "Now the question becomes, what can we do?"

Vice President Kamala Harris is interviewed by Asma Khalid.
/ Cheriss May for NPR
/
Cheriss May for NPR
Vice President Kamala Harris is interviewed by Asma Khalid.

Harris says she is focused on the November midterm elections

Harris said Congress needs to pass a law to codify abortion rights – something that would require big wins in what's expected to be a tough race in November.

"We cannot underestimate the significance of the upcoming elections and the need for all people who care about this issue to understand that we have to have a pro-choice Congress to pass this law," she said, mentioning Senate races in Georgia, North Carolina and Colorado, in particular.

Harris noted that other rights – including same-sex marriage and contraception – could be at risk because of the Supreme Court decision, but stopped short of saying that Senate Democratic leadership should bring forth legislation to federally codify those rights.

"I think this is an opportunity to coalition-build - an opportunity to bring under one roof all the folks who understand what's at stake right now," she said.

"If you take it as a Venn diagram, the part of the circle that is about attacks on voting rights, the circle that is about the attacks against the LGBTQ community, and the circle that is the attacks on a woman's right to choose, it's really interesting to see the overlap of those circles."

Harris declined to engage on the idea of term limits for Supreme Court justices, noting President Biden had been clear that he doesn't favor expanding the court. "I personally think we need to win the midterms," she said.

Reproductive rights is not the only intractable issue that Harris has been assigned since taking office. One of the first issues in her portfolio was finding ways to address the root causes of migration to the U.S. southern border. Khalid asked Harris about the tragic news that at least 50 people died, trapped in a tractor trailer in San Antonio on Monday.

Harris said that the tragedy should prompt change, but also noted that political leaders need to act – and that Congress had not moved on immigration reforms "because they're playing political games."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vice President Kamala Harris in her ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
/ Cheriss May for NPR
/
Cheriss May for NPR
Vice President Kamala Harris in her ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

NPR Washington Desk