Biden, Apparently Still Not a Fan of Abortion, Is Sending Kamala Harris on Abortion Tour

We had the Eras tour. Now it's Harris’ turn to travel the country and connect with women—on an issue that Biden himself seems ambivalent about at best.

Politics Kamala Harris
Biden, Apparently Still Not a Fan of Abortion, Is Sending Kamala Harris on Abortion Tour

Move over, Taylor Swift: It’s Vice President Kamala Harris’ turn to go on tour. Starting next month, President Biden’s 2024 running-mate is set to travel the country talking to voters about abortion and what’s at stake with the upcoming presidential election. Harris’ first stop will be in Wisconsin on January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and the second one since the landmark ruling was overturned in June 2022.

Abortion is a winning issue—we’ve established as much from polls that show broad bipartisan support for abortion rights, not to mention that candidates even in deep red states like Kentucky have won their races by making abortion access a cornerstone of their campaigns. And not to mention that every single abortion rights ballot measure since Roe fell, from Kansas to Ohio, has decisively won. A nationwide tour focused on abortion, traveling to states that are being crushed by bans, is a great idea on its face. The rest of the tour locations have yet to be announced, per the Associated Press, but Wisconsin—a vital swing state that, until relatively recently, suffered for months under the brutality of an abortion ban—is a solid start for an abortion-centric campaign to mobilize voters.

“Extremists across our country continue to wage a full-on attack against hard-won, hard-fought freedoms as they push their radical policies—from banning abortion in all 50 states and criminalizing doctors, to forcing women to travel out of state in order to get the care they need,” Harris said in Tuesday statement announcing the tour, adding that she’ll “continue to fight for our fundamental freedoms” and will aim to bring us all “together.”

Yet, here’s what I find irksome: Where’s President Biden in all of this? Look, I get it. Biden is older, and the AP notes that Harris is expected to take on a larger role on the campaign trail. She’s also a woman—specifically a woman of color—who’s spent a chunk of her political career talking about reproductive rights, or at least “~choice~,” and the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality, especially in Black communities. The AP also reports that as veep, Harris has held “more than 50 events in at least 16 states with lawmakers, attorneys general, activists and healthcare providers.” But the fact remains that Biden, time and again, has made it clear he doesn’t really care about abortion. He flip-flopped around on the Hyde Amendment (a budget policy that prohibits federal funding from covering most abortions) for years before eventually gauging that the tide had turned and coming out against it in 2019. Despite nearly three years in office—three years that saw Texas’ six-week, bounty hunter ban take effect and the Supreme Court pulling the plug on Roe—Biden has publicly said the word just once.

And nearly every chance he’s had to further stigmatize abortion, he’s taken: In June, Biden proclaimed that as a “practicing Catholic,” he’s “not big on abortion,” despite how people who have abortions come from all faiths. Yet, I’d argue that in a post-Roe world, we need a president who is “big on abortion.” A president who sees how abortion rights would spare so many people from physical and emotional torture, and recognizes that being “big on abortion” could save lives.

Biden’s campaign clearly knows abortion is broadly popular. There’s a reason he flooded Fox News’ website with ads about Roe ahead of the first Republican presidential debate in August.“Get real, Jack. I’m bringing Roe back,” the ad, featuring the iconic “Dark Brandon” imagery, reads. Clever little gimmick, I grant you that, but it rang fairly hollow without the word “abortion” in it. Ultimately, it’s telling that a president who (again), by his own proud admission, is “not big on abortion” is handing off this little Lady Issue to Harris, a noted lady—as if abortion doesn’t affect everyone’s bottom line and the health system writ large. That’s not to say Biden has done nothing on abortion—he has protected access to medication abortion; he’s appointed judges and justices who support abortion rights; he’s also affirmed that a federal law requiring doctors to provide life-saving care (EMTALA) applies to emergency abortions. Great!

Still, this abortion tour seems to be falling squarely in the hands of our female president because our male president believes he has other fish to fry. Granted, between ~the economy~ and Israel’s war on Gaza, he does have a lot of fish to tend to. Except Biden’s ineptitude and appalling lack of compassion toward Gaza could potentially cost them the election—basically, Biden is letting all the fish flop.

This takes me to my next issue with all of this: Frankly, any national tour on reproductive rights feels tone-deaf when this administration continues to fund and support a bombardment campaign on Gaza that’s not only slaughtering civilians but is subjecting pregnant women to the unthinkable. I can’t help but feel very, very angry when I hear Harris talk about maternal mortality in the U.S. while thousands of pregnant people are miscarrying and unable to find anywhere safe to give birth across Gaza. I know I write all the time about how popular abortion is—and guess what? So is a ceasefire.

There’s just so much about this 2024 abortion tour that rubs me the wrong way, between how it’s being delegated and the jarring reproductive injustice this administration is sponsoring abroad. Obviously, there’s a lot we still don’t know about it and probably won’t until next year. Until then, as I have been for the last three years on this administration’s abortion stance, I remain skeptical.

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