Vice President Kamala Harris (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
In a visit to Milwaukee Thursday in the midst of a tight midterm election season in a critical battleground state, Vice President Kamala Harris praised Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul for fighting the rollback of abortion rights.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision “intentionally shifted the fight for reproductive rights to the states,” Harris said in a speech to the Democratic Attorneys General Association, meeting at the Pfister Hotel.
“Extremist so-called leaders across our nation began to pass and enforce laws to criminalize doctors, nurses, health care providers,” she said. “I mean, think about those folks. Why they entered that profession, their sense of calling and duty to heal and help.”
Harris praised attorneys general who have been combating “misinformation and disinformation” including crisis pregnancy centers run by antiabortion groups.
“You all are filing legal challenges to state abortion bans, like right here in Wisconsin,” Harris said, singling out Kaul for working with Gov. Tony Evers to challenge the state’s 19th century abortion ban. “Listen to this,” she said. “With the limited resources every attorney general has, our friend here has to use his resources to fight a ban that was passed in 1849 — before women even had the right to vote. … Josh, our administration has your back.”
Harris said, that in her lifetime it’s hard to imagine, “such a fundamental right” as abortion would be repealed.
“That just happened!” she exclaimed. “A right that had been recognized for more than half a century.”
But Dobbs is “just the beginning,” Harris added. “Justice Clarence Thomas said the quiet part out loud. With Dobbs we know, if there was any question, we now know, marriage equality is on the line.”
Harris reminded the group that when she was running for attorney general of California in 2011, she opposed Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that made same-sex marriage illegal in the state in 2008. Harris defeated a Republican candidate who supported the measure, and she refused to defend the proposition in court challenges that ultimately overturned the marriage equality ban.
“The right to contraception is on the line in Michigan,” Harris added, noting that a candidate for attorney general there has compared emergency contraception to the drug fentanyl, suggesting that it should be banned.
She then pivoted to Republican attacks on voting rights based on the false claim that Donald Trump won the 2020 election.
“This is what we’re dealing with,” Harris said. “And so, on every level, it becomes incumbent on us, those who sincerely took an oath to protect and defend our Constitution and all of the principles upon which it was founded … to fight back.”
Quoting President Joe Biden’s speech last month at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, she said, “We are not bystanders in this ongoing attack on democracy.”
She praised the assembled attorneys general for their work to protect voting rights in their states, including condemning “sham audits” and filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court urging the Court to reject voting maps that dilute the votes of Black voters.
She called on the attorneys general to stand together and remain optimistic. “We may see the worst of human behavior sometimes in the work that we do every day,” she said, “but I know who you are, and I know you believe in the promise of who we are, the best of who we are.”
“Your role is critical,” Harris told the group, before heading to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for her next event. There she met with Hispanic leaders including local officials and Christine Neumann-Ortiz of Voces de la Frontera, who has said her organization is “committed to mobilizing the Latinx and youth vote to defeat the Trump backed candidates — [Tim] Michels and [Ron] Johnson — at the ballot box on November 8th.”
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