Vice President Harris will meet Friday with Democratic state legislators from states that are expected to enact or bolster abortion bans in coming months, following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to a senior White House official.
The states — Indiana, Florida, South Dakota, Nebraska and Montana — all have Republican governors and Republican-controlled legislatures, and many have indicated they will soon act to further restrict access to abortions.
South Dakota and Florida have already passed versions of an abortion ban, but they may convene special sessions to enhance those restrictions. Indiana’s special session on abortion is scheduled to begin July 25.
Since the court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, the administration has asked Harris to take a leadership role in its response. She has hosted meetings with faith leaders, health-care providers, constitutional law and privacy experts, and attorneys general strategizing about how to protect abortion access — and how to prevent the erosion of other rights.
Administration officials see the first female vice president, who is of Black and Asian descent, as a particularly strong messenger on the issue of abortion rights. On Saturday, at the Essence Festival, one of the largest gatherings of Black women in the country, Harris said there is a link between states taking away the right to an abortion and those that are restricting voting rights.
“At least 11 states are doing both at the same time,” Harris said. “No surprise there.”
During Friday’s meeting, according to the official, Harris will encourage the legislators to continue fighting for reproductive rights in their states and convey the White House’s commitment to helping them.
Since the Supreme Court’s decision, the administration has scrambled to show it is doing all in its power to protect access to abortions — and faced wilting criticism from members of the Democratic base concerned the White House is not doing enough.
Biden and Harris have told voters they should express their anger at the polls this November and give Democrats the legislative majorities they need to enshrine abortion access into federal law. But those exhortations ring hollow for some activists who say their votes handed Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress in 2020 and they have been disappointed in the result.
Biden has said his administration would seek to ensure access to medication abortions, which can be prescribed via telehealth visits and induced by pills shipped in the mail, potentially skirting state abortion restrictions. The administration has also sought to find ways to help women cross state lines to obtain an abortion.
Harris had initial reservations about becoming the face of the administration’s response, worried she could be pigeonholed on the issue because of her gender, according to people familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose a sensitive dynamic. Ultimately, she decided to take on the issue and is expected to play a prominent role in coming months.
Friday’s meeting, which will take place in the vice president’s ceremonial office, will be live-streamed on the White House’s website.
The attendees include Indiana House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta; incoming Florida House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell; South Dakota House Minority Whip Erin Healy; Nebraska state Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks; and Montana state Sen. Diane Sands.