Harris meets with abortion providers as court ruling looms

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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a virtual meeting with abortion providers from the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington, Thursday, May 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON – Vice President Kamala Harris, embracing her role as one of the administration’s most outspoken defenders of abortion rights, spoke Thursday with abortion providers from states with some of the country’s strictest restrictions, saying they are “on the front lines of this war on women's rights.”

The virtual conversation, which Harris hosted from the White House complex, came weeks after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion suggesting that justices are on the brink of overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Justices are expected to issue their final ruling in the next six weeks, but some states with Republican leaders are already laying the groundwork to ban abortion outright if the court allows individual states to set their own rules for the procedure.

Shortly before Harris began her meeting, Oklahoma lawmakers passed what might be the most restrictive abortion ban in the country, preventing the procedure in all cases except to save the life of a pregnant woman or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest that has been reported to law enforcement.

“It's outrageous, and it's just the latest in a series of extreme laws from around the country,” Harris said. She said the rules were designed to “punish and control women."

In addition to Oklahoma, the abortion providers who participated in the meeting were from Kansas, Texas, Missouri and Montana. Other states with less restrictive laws are preparing for a potential influx of patients if more bans going into effect.

Much as President Joe Biden has done, Harris said other court rulings that allowed access to contraception and legalized same sex marriage could also be at risk.

“It would be a direct assault on the fundamental right of self determination, to live and love without interference from the government,” she said.

The Biden administration has few options available to protect abortion, especially since legislation to safeguard access failed in the Senate last week.