'This is a health care crisis': VP Kamala Harris reacts to overturning of Roe v. Wade
Calling Friday's Supreme Court decision a health care crisis, Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday called on people to elect leaders who will protect abortion rights.
Harris, who spoke to a crowd of more than 200 community leaders at C.W. Avery Family YMCA in Plainfield, said she had hoped to talk about the gains made in maternal health. But she refocused her comments after learning of the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade Friday morning.
"Here's what that decision means," she said. "For nearly 50 years, we have talked about what Roe v. Wade protects. Today, as of right now, as of this minute, we can only talk about what Roe v. Wade protected. Past tense.
"This is a health care crisis," she continued, "because understand: Millions of women in America will go to bed tonight without access to the health care and reproductive care that they had this morning; without access to the same health care or reproductive care that their mothers and grandmothers had for 50 years."
The vice president went on to say that the decision violates women's constitutional right to privacy when making decisions related to birth control or when to start a family. She also questioned how the ruling may affect other rights.
"This opinion also says, when you read it, that abortion is not deeply rooted in our nation's history," Harris said. "They offer that, in the opinion, as a foundation for the decision they rendered today.
"Today's decision ... calls into question other rights that we thought were settled."
Harris also was scheduled to speak Friday at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference in Chicago.
"The great aspiration of our nation has been to expand freedom," she said Friday in Plainfield, "but the expansion of freedom clearly is not inevitable, It is not something that just happens -- not unless we defend our most fundamental principles; not unless we elect leaders who stand up for those principles. You have the power to elect leaders who will defend and protect your rights. And as the president said earlier today, with your vote, you can act, and you have the final word.
"So this is not over."
U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, a Naperville Democrat who represents the 14th District, also spoke at Friday's event and highlighted some of the actions taken by the Biden-Harris administration.
"There has never been an administration as dedicated to saving moms' lives as the Biden-Harris administration, and we have Vice President Harris to thank for that," Underwood said.
When Harris was a U.S. senator, she and Underwood worked together on what they called "momnibus" legislation aimed at improving Black maternal health.
"Reproductive freedom and maternal health are inextricably linked, and today's ruling ignores our stark reality that pregnancy in the United States is deadlier than in any other high-income country," Underwood said. "We won't stand by silently. We are taking action to ensure women and families have access to health care and the support that they need and deserve. That includes the full spectrum of reproductive health services, including abortion."
Following Friday's ruling, Gov. J.B. Pritzker called for a special session of state lawmakers to further strengthen abortion rights in Illinois.
In 2019, lawmakers backed legislation that ended prohibitions on some late-term abortions and 45-year-old criminal penalties for performing the procedure. It also established access to contraception, pregnancy benefits, abortion procedures, diagnostic testing and other related health care as a fundamental right.
"I'm proud to be part of a state that cares so much about women's health, women's decisions and women's rights," said state Sen. Cristina Castro, an Elgin Democrat whose 22nd District includes parts of Elgin, Schaumburg, Streamwood, Hoffman Estates and Carpentersville.
Harris is believed to be the highest elected official to visit Plainfield.
"It's a great honor to have a sitting vice president visit your community," said Plainfield Mayor John Argoudelis, who also expressed concern about Friday's ruling.
"The Supreme Court decision today is very significant and not only for abortion rights. I believe that many people are concerned as to the impact on other rights in our country," Argoudelis said, saying he agreed with the concerns Chief Justice John Roberts outlined in his concurring opinion in the Dobbs case.