Kamala Harris leans into abortion debate ahead of North Carolina visit

Vice President Kamala Harris wants North Carolina voters to fully grasp the stakes in this year’s Presidential Election, pointing to “MAGA Republicans’” attacks on reproductive freedoms.

Speaking on Charlotte-based radio station Power 98 ahead of her planned visit to the Tar Heel State, Harris directly attributed rollbacks to abortion access across the nation to Donald Trump during his four years as President before Joe Biden. Trump appointed three conservative Justices to the bench.

Of his nominees, one replaced a liberal Justice — Ruth Bader Ginsburg — and another replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy, who often served as a swing vote and was known as a moderate. Additionally, Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch to replace late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died while former President Barack Obama was still in office.

Because Republicans controlled the Senate at the time, Obama’s nominee for the seat, now-U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, was never confirmed. Combined, those appointments gave Republicans a solidly conservative majority on the bench and paved the way for overturning Roe v. Wade and allowing states to pass restrictive abortion bans.

The Biden campaign is investing heavily in North Carolina, and this is Harris’ second trip to the state in just two weeks — the fourth this year.

Harris will be in Charlotte Thursday to open a new campaign office, and she’s not missing the opportunity to remind voters of what’s at stake when it comes to their reproductive freedoms, appealing to voters not just to cast a ballot for Biden at the top of the ticket, but to ensure votes down ballot as well

“Look, every state in the South, with the exception of Virginia, has an abortion ban. And your Governor, Roy Cooper in North Carolina, tried to fight for the right of women to have the freedom to make decisions about their own bodies and not have their government tell them what to do. But you know, the statewide elections matter as much as who is in the White House and what happened is that they overrode his veto,” Harris said on the radio program.

“And so I would remind North Carolinians that this election upcoming in November … as much as much as anything it’s about who is in Congress and who is in that state house.”

Harris said “we have to trust women,” noting that “they know what they need and they shouldn’t be denied access to what they need, especially when we’re talking about reproductive health care.”

Her remarks, and visit, come after the Florida Supreme Court cleared a ballot initiative for the November election that would enshrine abortion protection in the state constitution if at least 60% of those who cast a ballot give it the OK. The court also upheld the state’s 15-week abortion ban, which triggers a more restrictive 6-week ban.

Together, the issues are expected to drive Democratic voter turnout, and could drive turnout among moderate voters, particularly women, who could help Democrats on the ticket. While that’s a different state, some North Carolina leaders joined a call with the Biden campaign this week after the rulings reminding voters that the Florida ban means.

“North Carolina has a less restrictive ban, but it has a lot of medically unnecessary obstacles and our clinics are stretched thin as it is,” Cooper said. He made that point as part of a larger point that abortion will be a top issue in all southern states this election.

The Biden campaign has opened 10 new field offices in North Carolina. In addition to its state headquarters located in Raleigh, the campaign also has offices in Forsyth, Mecklenburg, Guilford, Cumberland, Johnson, Orange, New Hanover, Buncombe, Cabarrus and Alamance counties. Charlotte is located in Mecklenburg County, according to Axios.

And the campaign announced this week, ahead of Harris’ visit, that it was adding staff in the state, including Harrison Peel as Deputy Campaign Manager, state Sen. Natalie Murdock as political and coalitions director, James Sonneman as general elections director and Desiree Kennedy as Chief Operations Officer, according to CBS 17.

Harris was in Raleigh last week with President Biden as the home stretch on a swing through battleground states as the two seek re-election. On that trip, Harris and Biden focused on the administration’s work to lower prescription drug costs, protect Medicare and Medicaid and fight for reproductive freedom.

While Harris addressed reproductive health care in her radio hit Wednesday, she’s expected to tout the administration’s work mitigating climate change. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan will join Harris on the trip.

The campaign is trying to capitalize on North Carolina as a swing state, which would mark a turnaround from recent elections. Democrats have not won a U.S. Senate seat or a presidential race in North Carolina since 2008, but Trump’s margin of victory in the state four years ago was narrow, at just 1.3 percentage points.

The party sees an opening this year with issues that have proven successful for Democrats in recent years, including reproductive freedom, still dominating headlines. Two statewide GOP candidates, Mark Robinson for Governor and Michele Morrow for State Schools Superintendent, are also highly controversial in that they both have a history of incendiary remarks. That gives Democrats fodder to fire up moderate voters.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. In early 2022, she left the business to serve as Communications Director for St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch. After leaving the administration, Janelle briefly worked as a communications consultant for candidates, businesses and non-profits, before accepting her position as Publisher for Southeast Politics, a homecoming of sorts to her Florida Politics roots, where she served as a reporter and editor for several years. Janelle has also held roles covering the intersection of politics and business for the Tampa Bay Business Journal and general assignment news with an emphasis on social justice and climate change for WMNF Community Radio, where she also hosted a political call-in show under several names, including Last Call, Midpoint and The Scoop. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]

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