Vice President Kamala Harris
Office of the Vice President
September 9, 2021
REMARKS BY VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS
BEFORE A REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS ROUNDTABLE
Vice President’s Ceremonial Office
3:43 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, again, I want to thank the leaders who are at this table. You are national leaders. And at this moment, and for a long time, you have been leading on an issue that represents the voice -- represents the voices of so many who deserve to be heard, deserve to be seen, and whose rights must be protected, and in particular, their constitutional rights and the right to dignity in making their own choices about their personal healthcare.
So, I want to thank you all for being here today. We are going to have a robust and a candid conversation about what's going on in our country and, in particular, of what just recently happened in Texas.
But I will repeat what I know you all know: The President and I are unequivocal in our support of Roe v. Wade and the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade, and the right of women to make decisions for themselves with whomever they choose -- about their own bodies. And, needless to say, the right of women to make decisions about their own bodies is not negotiable. The right of women to make decisions about their own bodies is their decision; it is their body.
And no legislative institutions have the right to circumvent the Constitution of the United States in an attempt to interfere with, much less to prevent, a woman to make those decisions.
So we will have a conversation about how what is happening in Texas is affect- -- affecting women in Texas. But, as we know, it's not only Texas where this is happening. And I know we're going to talk about Mississippi. We're talking about New Mexico. We're going to talk about the United States and what we must do collectively -- all of us -- to protect the women of our country and protect their constitutional rights.
All of this, again, is in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, as it relates to the Texas law, which is essentially an abortion bounty law, empowering vigilantes with a private right of action to interfere with a woman's relationship with her healthcare provider.
The Supreme Court has allowed a state law to stand that deputizes citizens -- anyone -- to proclaim themselves in a position to have a right under law to interfere with those choices that that woman has made.
Today, however, the United States Department of Justice has spoken loudly in saying that this law is patently unconstitutional and that the United States Department of Justice is prepared to take action and to sue, understanding that what Texas has done is a violation of the United States Constitution.
Today, also, our Gender Policy Council, the leaders of whom are here, will talk -- as part of this conversation -- about the whole-of-government approach that our administration is taking to protect women and to protect healthcare providers and all those who have had the best interest in protecting the constitutional rights of women so that we can ensure that -- to the extent we are able to elevate the voices and protect constitutional rights -- that we are doing everything within our power as an administration to get that done.
And on the point about Texas, this is not a one-off. It's not the only state that is doing this. Right now, there are 22 states that have laws that could be used to restrict the legal status of abortions. Twenty-two. Ninety provisions that restrict access to reproductive healthcare were passed in 2021. Ninety provisions.
Some states, like Kentucky and Mississippi, have only one abortion clinic. And we will talk about what that has meant not only to the healthcare professionals and the residents of those states, but also the impact to neighboring states and healthcare professionals from neighboring states.
And today, you know, I simply want to talk also about what happens when -- when we do the right thing, which is to provide all people with access to healthcare. Because we made a statement a long time ago that we agree that it is a human right -- should be thought of as a civil right -- for all people to have access to healthcare, regardless of their gender, regardless of their status, regardless of where they live.
And so, when we move closer to our national goal of women's full participation in our nation, including ensuring that all women have access to healthcare, including reproductive healthcare, I believe we will be a stronger nation. I believe we will be closer to what we say we hold as an ideal, which is all people are equal and should be treated that way, including their access to essential services.
So, for me, this is truly an issue that is about full participation. And in that way, we know that when all people are able to fully participate, our democracy is stronger and everyone benefits. And in that way, this issue connects to everyone.
When people are able to design their lives in a way that they can determine their own futures, we are a stronger democracy and we are a stronger nation. When people are able to make choices without government interference for themselves -- in terms of their wellbeing and the wellbeing of their family, in consultation with whomever they may choose -- we are a stronger society.
So, it is with that spirit that we will have this conversation now.
And again, I want to thank the leaders who are at this table because you are on the ground doing this work every day. And there are a whole lot of folks looking to you for confidence, for support, and looking to you, hoping that we as a country understand that they are rightfully entitled to dignity and protection under the law, as we have declared in our United States Constitution should be the right of all people.
So, with that, I thank you. And we'll begin our conversation.
Q Madam Vice President, what is -- what are some of the immediate steps that this administration can take to combat this law? Because, as you know, litigation can take years. Is there any legislation that this administration supports?
And then, as the first woman Vice President, is this an issue that you want to take ownership of -- over? Would you like to add this to your portfolio?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, let me tell you, first of all, this is an issue that I've been -- along with so many other leaders, including the leaders at this table -- been a strong advocate for, which is the right of a woman to make decisions about her own body and not to have anybody interfere with her ability and her right to make that decision.
On the issue of laws, the President has said, I have said, and I will repeat myself: We need to codify Roe v. Wade.