Speaking in Philadelphia, Vice President Kamala Harris on Saturday called the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the federal right to an abortion “deeply harmful to our nation.”
The vice president was meeting with Democratic members of the U.S. Congress and Pennsylvania Legislature as she reaffirmed President Joe Biden’s administration’s commitment to protecting reproductive freedoms.
“It must be understood that on this subject, we are not asking anyone to compromise their beliefs or abandon their faith. We are simply saying the government should not be in the position, nor should the government have the power, to replace its beliefs for those of the women,” Harris said.
She highlighted states that not only are criminalizing medical professionals who provide abortions but also are making no exceptions in the cases of rape or incest.
The issue of reproductive rights has been magnified ever since the Supreme Court last month overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that granted people the right to an abortion at the federal level. As it stands, states now have the right to impose their own abortion laws.
In Pennsylvania, the procedure remains legal up to 24 weeks of pregnancy and if the health of the parent is at risk during pregnancy. The issue is now front and center in the races for Pennsylvania’s next U.S. senator and governor.
In the Senate race, Mehmet Oz, the celebrity heart surgeon, is running as the Republican Party’s nominee. In a statement, he praised the Supreme Court’s latest decision on abortion while vowing to “defend the sanctity of life.”
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Meanwhile, Democrat John Fetterman, the state’s current lieutenant governor, has called reproductive rights “non-negotiable” and vowed to support eliminating the filibuster to codify abortion into federal law.
“I would urge everyone: pay attention to the Senate race here in Pennsylvania. I know I’m personally supporting John Fetterman, and I urge everybody else to do the same,” Harris said.
In the governor’s race, Democrat Josh Shapiro, the current attorney general, has vowed to veto bills from the Republican-controlled Legislature that would place restrictions on abortions. Harris thanked Shapiro and outgoing Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf for fighting “for the principles and the people that have so much at stake right now.”
Shapiro is running against Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who while in office has pushed for a ban on abortions beyond six weeks of pregnancy. Mastriano’s bill, introduced in March of last year, does not include exceptions in the case of rape or incest, or if the health of the parent is at risk during pregnancy.
The decision to ban or allow abortions is already playing out in the state Legislature.
Last week, Republican state senators voted to add language amending the state constitution to say it does not guarantee abortion rights. The move was a procedural step in an effort to put the question to voters. Wolf has vetoed anti-abortion legislation in the past, but a ballot question seeking voters' approval for a constitutional amendment cannot be vetoed by the governor.
Nationally, critics have assailed the Biden administration’s response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade as slow and lackluster.
On July 8, two weeks after the decision was overturned, he signed an executive order to protect the privacy for people seeking abortions and provide technical assistance to states that provide the procedure to people coming from states where it is banned. On July 11, Biden issued a directive for medical providers to grant abortions in emergency situations.
The president has also called on voters to elect more Democrats in November’s midterm elections in order to pass a law in Congress legalizing abortion access across the country.