Vice President Harris has cemented herself as the Biden administration’s foremost messenger on abortion rights, the issue that the White House hopes will define the 2024 election cycle.
After an uneven first 18 months in office, in which Harris faced criticism over her ability to handle complex and intractable matters including migration and voting rights, the vice president has planted her flag in the fight over reproductive rights.
Ever since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision that ended the constitutional right to abortion in June 2022, Harris has been traveling the country, visiting red, blue and swing states to meet with activists, providers and women impacted by abortion bans.
“As a leader, she uniquely was able to meet the moment when Roe v. Wade was overturned, and she so galvanized the anger and fear people were feeling when the news came down that Roe was overturned,” said Karen Finney, a veteran Democratic strategist.
“Reproductive rights connect to a number of different issues,” Finney added. “Having the vice president be able to say, ‘We get it, we see you, we hear you and we’re fighting with you’ is critically important.”
Abortion rights have been a key issue for Harris even before the Dobbs decision.
She was endorsed by pro-abortion groups when she ran for California attorney general in 2010 and has maintained strong ties with those organizations in the years since. When she was running for president in 2019, Harris vowed to put more federal guardrails around abortion access by requiring states with a history of restricting it to seek clearance from the Justice Department before enacting any new abortion laws.
Much of the messaging from the Biden administration ahead of the 2024 election has been focused on the ongoing threat a Republican administration would pose to reproductive rights — and personal freedoms more broadly.
“Donald Trump is the reason that more than 1 in 3 American women of reproductive age don’t have the freedom to make their own health care decisions. Now, he and MAGA Republicans are running to go even further if they retake the White House,” Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Biden-Harris 2024 campaign manager, said in a statement.
“In 2024, a vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is a vote to restore Roe, and a vote for Donald Trump is a vote to ban abortion across the country. These are the stakes in 2024 and we’re going to continue to make sure that every single voter knows it,” she added.
Beginning Monday, Harris is embarking on a nationwide tour focused on the Biden administration’s efforts to protect reproductive rights.
She will start in Wisconsin, a battleground state where abortion fueled a Democratic victory in a key state supreme court election last year. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is promising to fight a GOP supermajority Legislature that just introduced a 14-week abortion ban.
While there, Harris will “highlight the harm caused by extreme abortion bans and share stories of those who have been impacted in Wisconsin and across the country,” the vice president’s office said.
“She will also hold extremists accountable for proposing a national abortion ban, call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe, and outline steps the Administration is taking to protect access to health care,” it added.
Biden campaign aides and Democratic strategists believe Harris will be a particularly valuable asset on the trail as she engages with young voters and voters of color, both of which will be important to the president rebuilding the coalition that helped him win in 2020.
“The first order of business when you’re running for reelection is to consolidate your base, and Joe Biden hasn’t completely done that yet. He’s not where he should be with young voters. He’s not where he should be with some women voters and some nonwhite voters,” said Jim Kessler, a co-founder of center-left think tank Third Way.
“Kamala can do a great job in all those places. The choice issue will certainly be front-and-center,” Kessler added.
One Democratic strategist noted Harris has long-standing relationships with pro-abortion activist groups, and her record on abortion is clear, dating back to her time working in California politics.
That track record gives her credibility on the issue, which is particularly useful given how President Biden’s views on abortion have evolved.
Biden as a senator initially expressed skepticism about the Roe v. Wade ruling, and he previously supported the Hyde Amendment, which banned federal funding for most abortions.
Three of the largest abortion rights groups — Reproductive Freedom for All, formerly known as NARAL, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and EMILY’s List — all endorsed Biden and Harris for reelection in June, just before the anniversary of Dobbs.
Angela Vasquez-Giroux, vice president of communications and research at Reproductive Freedom for All, recalled an event it hosted with Harris in April at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
“People were so responsive and reactive to her message and the way that she delivered it,” Vasquez-Giroux said. “She is a Howard alum. She … just came across to me as authentic, very comfortable, you know, speaking to a crowd of mostly young Black women and reproductive freedom advocates. She just really seemed like she was at home and in her element.”
Even Republicans have taken notice of Harris’s efforts as the face of the administration’s abortion efforts.
Former Trump White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Fox News that while she disagreed with Harris’s policy views, the vice president was effectively tying her broader messaging about the Biden agenda back to reproductive rights.
“Because she knows what is true and that is — is the GOP has lost every single abortion ballot initiative post-Roe,” McEnany said Wednesday, calling Harris’s approach “very powerful among women.”
“When even your sworn enemies are able to appreciate how good a messenger you are, I think that’s another really great proof point,” Vasquez-Giroux said.