‘A healthcare crisis’: Harris takes aim at Trump on anniversary of Roe’s fall

<span>Kamala Harris embraces Kate Cox, who was denied an abortion last year, in College Park, Maryland, on 24 June.</span><span>Photograph: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images</span>
Kamala Harris embraces Kate Cox, who was denied an abortion last year, in College Park, Maryland, on 24 June.Photograph: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris marked the second anniversary of the US supreme court ruling that overturned Roe v Wade with forceful campaign statements that laid the blame squarely on Donald Trump for ending the national right to abortion.

In a video released on Monday, Biden pledged to restore the right to an abortion and “protect American freedom” if he is re-elected.

The video, along with a campaign event headlined by the vice-president, came two years to the day since the court’s decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization reversed nearly half a century of guaranteed federal abortion rights, and reflect the centrality of abortion in Biden’s presidential campaign.

In College Park, Maryland, Harris took the stage to chants of “four more years”. In her remarks, Harris laid out what she said were the stakes for abortion access if Trump is re-elected.

“Understand as much harm as he has already caused, a second Trump term would be even worse,” she said. “His friends in the United States Congress are trying to pass a national ban that would outlaw abortion in every single state – in states like New York and California, and even right here in Maryland.”

Nodding to her background as a prosecutor, Harris called Trump’s attack on women’s reproductive rights “premeditated” and said he has “not denied, much less shown remorse, for his actions”.

“In the case of the stealing of reproductive freedom from the women of America, Donald Trump is guilty,” she said.

Harris called Republicans who have passed state-level bans Trump’s “accomplices” and warned that he would go even further by curtailing access to contraception and IVF.

Pointing to the statistic that one in three American women live in a state with abortion restrictions, she said: “Today our daughters know fewer rights than their grandmothers. This is a healthcare crisis, and we all know who to blame: Donald Trump.”

Kate Cox, the Texas woman who was denied an abortion under the state’s near-total ban last year despite a fatal fetal anomaly, introduced Harris in Maryland.

“My state chose to drive me out of my home, my community, away from my children and my doctors, rather than to let me access care,” she said. “I will never again miss an opportunity to vote. I will cast my ballot in every election like my life depends on it.”

Cox ultimately left Texas to receive care. Growing emotional from the stage on Monday, she shared that she is pregnant again, expecting a child in January. The crowd erupted in applause. “I hope that by then, when we welcome our baby into the world, we will have a world led by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” she said.

“You are a hero of this movement,” Harris told Cox.

In Biden’s video, the president, too, placed the responsibility for reversing abortion rights on Trump, quoting him boasting about the decision and taking credit for putting three conservative justices on the court.

“Here’s what Donald Trump says about your freedom: ‘After 50 years of failure, with nobody coming even close, I was able to kill Roe v Wade,’” Biden says, quoting a Trump statement last year.

“Two years ago, the supreme court justices that Trump handpicked helped overturn Roe v Wade,” Biden continues. “Decades of progress shattered just because the last guy got four years in the White House.”

“We’re up against extremism. Send me back to the White House and I’ll fight like hell to restore Roe v Wade and protect American freedom.”

The offensive comes amid polling evidence that with consistently weak approval ratings for Biden, concerns over reproductive rights represent Democrats’ best hope of retaining the White House in November.

Since Roe v Wade was overthrown in 2022, ballot measures in several states – including ones that tend to vote Republican – have upheld or enshrined abortion rights locally, signalling that the issue has popular resonance particularly among female voters.

On Friday, a group of Montana abortion rights supporters became the latest to announce that they had secured enough signatures to hold a November ballot measure asking voters to enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution. Although that measure has not yet been confirmed by state officials, voters in roughly a dozen states are expected to weigh in directly on abortion rights this year, including in battleground states such as Nevada and Arizona.

Democrats are hoping that these measures will boost turnout in their favor.

Several groups – including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Freedom for All – announced on Monday a $100m Abortion Access Now campaign across several states.

Since Roe fell, Biden has frequently promised to “codify” Roe’s protections into law. Although his administration has issued executive orders aimed at boosting access to reproductive healthcare, including contraception, as well as defended abortion access in two supreme court cases this year, Biden cannot re-establish a federal right to abortion without congressional support. Congress has repeatedly failed to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill that blocks states from totally banning abortion before fetal viability, or the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb.

In a call with reporters on Monday, White House officials declined to reveal any plans for future abortion-related executive actions. Jennifer Klein, assistant to the president and director of the Gender Policy Council, also acknowledged that, if the supreme court rules against the Biden administration in a highly anticipated case over emergency abortions, “our options on emergency medical care are likely to be limited”.

Trump has sought to backpedal on his stance in recent months, telling congressional Republicans in a meeting on Capitol Hill this month that the matter should be left to the states and warning them against pursuing a national ban.