Vice President Kamala Harris, right, speaks with Jennifer Palmieri at Drake University’s Sheslow Auditorium on reproductive rights. (Screen shot from White House video)
Vice President Kamala Harris stopped in Des Moines on Friday to call on Iowans to fight back against what she called a “full-on attack against hard-won freedoms.”
During an hour-long stop at Des Moines’ Drake University, Harris focused on the Iowa Legislature’s recent passage of a law – stayed, for now, by the courts – that seeks to ban access to virtually all abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy.
She contrasted that legislation with polls showing that a majority of Iowans support a woman’s right to an abortion.
“It’s basically a ban (on abortion) because, I think, as I travel the country it has become clear to me that so many people in these state legislatures don’t even know how women’s bodies work,” she said. “Most women will not even know they are pregnant at six weeks, so it is, in effect, an outright ban.”
Harris condemned what she called the “hypocrisy” of state legislatures that enact restrictions on abortion access while doing nothing about maternal mortality. The states with the highest rates of maternal mortality, she said, also are states that have enacted such restrictions.
“Of all the wealthy nations, the United States has the highest rate of maternal mortality,” she said. “All these people who are pushing these (abortion) bans, they suggest it’s because they care about mothers and children, and yet they’ve been silent on the issue of maternal mortality.”
She noted that Black women are three times more likely to die of causes related to childbirth, and rural women are 1.5 times more likely to die.
“Well, we know that one-third of the people in this beautiful state live in rural America,” she said. “Do you know that in two-thirds of the counties in Iowa, there is not one OB-GYN? Think about that.”
Harris said she has been calling for all 50 states to extend Medicaid coverage for postpartum care from two months to 12 months. “When we started this, there were only three states doing that, and now we’re at 35 states – but Iowa still has not signed on,” she said, calling on state lawmakers to “put your money where your mouth is.”
Harris’ comments come one week after she criticized new educational standards in Florida that call for instruction on “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” Harris has characterized that new standard as an effort to teach students that “enslaved people benefited from slavery” – an interpretation that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis challenged earlier this week in Iowa.
At Drake University on Friday, Harris reminded the audience that America has historically measured its progress through its expansion of citizens’ rights, not through restrictions on rights.
“So let us be truth-tellers about what’s going on,” she said. “I was going to say, ‘Let’s be explicit,’ but that sounds like being provocative unnecessarily, so let us just tell the truth: Women in our country are having miscarriages in toilets. Laws are being passed that make no exception for rape or incest.”
Harris said it’s important to remember that in a democracy it’s not unusual for the rights of some citizens to come under attack, and so Americans must always remain vigilant about protecting those rights.
“All is not lost,” she said. “I do believe there is a full-on attack against hard-won freedoms, but we have power – and, if I may use a cliché, the power is in the people … Please make sure you’re registered to vote — and then please, just ask three people randomly who you might see on the street when you go to the grocery store or wherever, let’s make sure that people start registering now. Let’s not wait until the eve of the election.”
In response to Harris’ visit, Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann released a written statement that said, “”You know what Iowans are really talking about? How ‘Bidenomics’ is eating up their paychecks as real wages continue to decline, and how Joe Biden and his ‘border czar’ Kamala Harris are overseeing the worst border disaster in American history. Kamala Harris’ taxpayer-funded trip isn’t going to be enough to distract Iowans from this hard reality.”
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