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Vice President Kamala Harris voices support for abortion access at Wisconsin visit

Waukesha County visit is the first on her 'Fight for Reproductive Freedoms' tour

VP Harris points backward as she stands in front of a crowd & a banner that says "TRUST WOMEN."
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to a crowd of supporters Monday, Jan. 22, 2024, in Big Bend, Wis. (Angela Major/WPR)

On the 51st anniversary of the monumental Roe v. Wade decision, Vice President Kamala Harris took to Waukesha County to discuss the importance of protecting abortion rights in post-Roe America. 

The visit — which was the first stop on her “Fight for Reproductive Freedoms” tour — comes days after Wisconsin Republicans unveiled a bill that would ban abortions after 14 weeks.

During a speech in Big Bend, Harris said she and President Joe Biden will work to defend abortion rights from “extremists” who want to see it banned. 

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“In a state whose motto is ‘Forward,’ these extremists are trying to take us backwards,” Harris said. “But we’re not having that. We’re not having that.”

VP Harris points upward during a speech. Five US flags can be seen behind her.
Vice President Kamala Harris gestures from the podium as she delivers a speech Monday, Jan. 22, 2024, in Big Bend, Wis. (Angela Major/WPR)

Harris said a health care crisis was created when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, removing federal abortion protections. The June 2022 decision pushed abortion regulations back to the states. In Wisconsin, the procedure essentially ceased until late 2023 when a Dane County judge ruled a state law enacted in 1849 bans feticide and not consensual abortions.

“Just look at what the fallout has been, the reproductive care clinics across the state that had to close, the women that hospitals had to turn away,” Harris said. 

On Monday, state lawmakers discussed the the GOP bill that would ban abortions unless the mother is at risk of dying or incurring irreversible injuries. The Republican bill, introduced Friday, would shorten Wisconsin’s abortion ban from 20 weeks to 14 weeks after fertilization.

The legislation would not go into effect without the support of voters via an April referendum. It would also require support from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who has promised a veto.

Harris also promised to protect abortion access at the national level.

“What they need to know is that if Congress passes a national abortion ban, President Joe Biden will veto it,” Harris said. 

VP Harris smiles as she greets a crowd of people.
Vice President Kamala Harris greets attendees after speaking Monday, Jan. 22, 2024, in Big Bend, Wis. (Angela Major/WPR)

The visit comes just one day after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dropped out of the presidential race, almost ensuring the 2024 election will be a rematch of the 2020 election. This, as Biden’s job approval rating in November was 40 percent, according to a Marquette University Law School Poll. That poll found former president Donald Trump was leading Biden among registered voters in the 2024 race for president.

The Marquette poll also found that 40 percent of registered voters said abortion was one of the most important issues to them.

Biden also stated his support for abortion rights on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

“On this day and every day, Vice President Harris and I are fighting to protect women’s reproductive freedom against Republican officials’ dangerous, extreme, and out-of-touch agenda,” Biden said in a statement. “We stand with the vast majority of Americans who support a woman’s right to choose, and continue to call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe in federal law once and for all.” 

VP Harris gestures as she speaks at a podium. The words "TRUST WOMEN" appear behind her on a black and white banner.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks Monday, Jan. 22, 2024, in Big Bend, Wis. (Angela Major/WPR)

Harris’ visit is another reminder of the key role Wisconsin will play in the upcoming election. Waukesha County, where she spoke, has been a Republican stronghold for decades. In 2020, Trump received nearly 60 percent of the vote there.

During a call with reporters before her visit, Wisconsin GOP Chair Brian Schimming said Harris was in Wisconsin for political reasons.

“They’re (Biden and Harris) losing this election,” Schimming said. 

He also said the trip was a way to distract voters about the administration’s record.

“For the Vice President to jet into Wisconsin now with this trail of problems this administration is facing, from a policy perspective and from a political perspective, is disgraceful,” he added. 

Monday’s visit was Harris’ fifth to the state since taking office. In August, she visited Kenosha to praise plans from Nokia to manufacture broadband network electronics in Kenosha County.

Biden also visited Wisconsin three times last year, most recently in December when he appeared at the Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce to tout investments his administration has made for small, Black-owned businesses.

Biden will again travel to Wisconsin on Thursday to discuss his economic agenda for the nation, which his administration has labeled “Bidenomics.” He’ll be in Superior touting a more than $1.05 billion investment to replace the Blatnik Bridge.

VP Harris has a concerned expression as she speaks at the podium.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks Monday, Jan. 22, 2024, in Big Bend, Wis. (Angela Major/WPR)